The off-season is over and meaningful games are just around the corner! I know I’m terribly excited and a sense of dread has already overtaken my wife. That is what happens when the football season approaches though! Most of you have already had your rookie drafts, but you’re hopefully still watching your favorite rookies and waiting for the right time to make an offer on them. In order to help those evaluations as well as helping those of you who are about to draft, we are back with one last rookie mock draft of the year. For an extra twist, this mock will feature ten of our newest writers, letting them share their views on some of their favorite rookies.
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 fine. 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 I, will get a few of these players wrong. It happens to all of us.
In case you missed them, here are the previous rounds: First and Second. The first caused quite a stir while the second round seemed to settle down the masses. Let’s see what the reaction is to round three!
As is customary with the third round, it is time for everyone’s favorite fliers. In my opinion, the third round is where you go for upside. They don’t need to be elite players, but you want players who have the talent where they could be starters on your fantasy squad. Like most of our mocks, the third round is dominated by wide receivers and running backs. We continue to have just two quarterbacks drafted and just one tight end in our three round mocks. Let’s take a look at how it all shook out.
3.01 – Jay Ajayi, RB MIA
Bruce’s thoughts: Six months ago, Jay Ajayi was considered a first round pick in rookie drafts. At this point of the draft I’m willing to take a stab at him. This pick is a swing for the fences. Ajayi has the talent to become a top ten back if he plays to his potential. His longevity is a big deal to me. There’s a chance he could only be in the league for just a couple years due to his previous knee injuries. Also, I haven’t heard much buzz of him lighting things up during training camp. I liked him during the pre-draft process and I thought he had RB1 potential. If he gets the opportunity to get a heavy workload, he could be a productive fantasy back.
My thoughts: Bruce seems to have the same idea when it comes to third round picks. The situation in Miami with Lamar Miller heading into the last year of his rookie deal for the cap strapped Dolphins could mean an opening at the position. While I think Ajayi’s talent was a little overstated early in the draft process and the knee issue is definitely a concern, he could step up as a short term fix at the position for what could turn into one of the better offenses in the league. I’m not expecting anything out of Ajayi this season, especially since he seem to be behind Damien Williams right now, but he makes for a high upside pick in the third round.
Editor’s Note: Make sure you enter the DLF FanDuel Football Championship, exclusively for followers of DLF. Seriously. We have a $20,000 prize pool here, folks.
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3.02 – Jeremy Langford, RB CHI
Mike’s thoughts: Adam Gase is the new offensive coordinator and what kind of effect will that have on Langford or Matt Forte? My view is Langford will get several opportunities this season and possibly take over for Forte when his contract expires in 2016. Langford, like Forte, can catch and is quick with the ball in his hands. He is converted running back from his original cornerback and wide receiver positions that he played at Michigan State and should beat out Ka’Deem Carey for the number two job.
My thoughts: Langford is one of the favorite middle round running backs for a few of us here at DLF. He has a complete skill set and the size to be an every down rusher in the NFL. I was very happy to see the Bears take him and he could turn into the next great running back for the franchise. That isn’t to say Langford is perfect. He is fairly new to the position and needs to work on some of the finer points of the game, but spending a year or two behind Forte should provide some great insight for Langford and have him ready to take over the reins in a few years. If you have the roster space, Langford is a great stash with a lot of upside!
3.03 – Devin Smith, WR NYJ
Harrison’s thoughts: Devin Smith was drafted by the Jets in the second round and due to his preseason ending injury, he fell a lot in rookie drafts recently. However, rookies should not be treated as immediate factors and more like farm players. He averaged 28.2 yards per reception in college, which is just crazy when you consider his efficiency. He had 20.7 yards per target, which is one of the highest of all time, and it’s not just high, it’s so high, his YPT stat would be considered an outlier compared to everyone else. The Jets have an aging receiver in Brandon Marshall and in a few years, Devin Smith will become possibly an even better version of DeSean Jackson.
My thoughts: I think our drafters are three for three in the third round. While I might have drafted slightly different players, I think Ajayi, Langford and now Smith are all nice, high upside players. I like a lot of the same things about Smith that Harrison likes. Smith might be one of the best deep threats in college football history. Some feel his ability with the deep ball means he is going to be a bit of a one trick pony in the NFL, but I think he can be a lot more than that. He has shown at times he can run other routes and can also play in the short and intermediate parts of the field. When he is at those levels, he is a dangerous player after the catch. The biggest question for his value will be if the Jets can figure out their quarterback issues. If they do, Smith could become a very solid WR2 in the not too distant future.
3.04 – Josh Robinson, RB IND
Chris’ thoughts: My last pick of the draft was at 3.04 and I used it on one of my favorite players in dynasty leagues – Josh Robinson. Frank Gore is clearly the lead back in Indianapolis. The Colts drafted Robinson because he could just be the future. He looks identical to Gore and can bang up defenses – these are the types of players who help out offensively and become very valuable. The Colts need the running game to work and Robinson can stick around in this offense for years to come. He is hands down my favorite pick in this whole draft.
My thoughts: Chris and I clearly have different opinions on players, and that is perfectly fine. He really likes Robinson. As for me, there were 17 running backs taken in this three round mock and Robinson isn’t in my top 15. Even at his current age, Gore is way more talented than Robinson. Yes, Robinson has good size and does have some skill in the passing game as well, meaning he could in theory be a three down running back, but I think that is a pipe dream. Robinson has below average athleticism for an NFL rusher and lacks a lot of the finer points required to be a great rusher like vision and instincts. In my opinion, he is pretty much a straight ahead bruiser who will get what is blocked and not much else.
3.05 – Justin Hardy, WR ATL
Adam’s thoughts: Coming out of East Carolina, Hardy amassed some solid numbers, even for a small school wideout. He had nearly 1,100+ yards per season and crossed the 110 reception mark in his last two years. He reminds me of a Jarvis Landry-type player, – one who’s not going to kill you with his speed, but can be a reliable target. His blocking also leaped out at me from looking at his tape and that’s a major plus for a rookie. His outlook on the Falcons couldn’t be better (even with the emergence of Leonard Hankerson). Hardy is poised for a major role in the coming years. Roddy White sure isn’t getting any younger and his spot is up for grabs. He is definition of a third round flyer.
My thoughts: Hardy is one of those guys you want to see succeed. He isn’t the highest ceiling guy, but he is an extremely hard worker and a high character guy. The fit with the Falcons is great as well, just like Adam mentioned. I believe Hardy is the future slot receiver for them, fitting into the role Harry Douglas vacated. My only concern for Hardy is his ceiling. He is someone who was great in college based on how hard he worked and how refined he made his game. I’m not sure if there is a whole lot of room for growth. He might already be pretty close to his ceiling, which is a little unfortunate.
3.06 – Ty Montgomery, WR GB
Izzy’s thoughts: The trend continues on my mission for value gain. Montgomery is another player who could gain a lot of value throughout the season now that Jordy Nelson is on IR. I had no debate on which player to take at this spot – Montgomery was the guy. As a talent, he’s very limited on the upside. That said, I’m playing the odds of year one production and if Randall Cobb misses any time with the shoulder injury, Montgomery will see the field by default. Sign me up as the 30th rookie selected.
My thoughts: Given the recent injuries for the Packers, I expected Montgomery to go earlier in this mock than the middle of the third round. If I had to bet, I would have put him down as a late second round rookie pick before everything started. With Nelson out and Cobb’s injury history combined with rumblings that Montgomery is ahead of 2014 rookies Jeff Janis and Jared Abbrederis, Montgomery seems to be getting a lot of hype. He could see quite a few snaps this year. With that said, I agree with Izzy on the upside. Montgomery struggles catching the ball, his routes are a little sloppy and he lacks some of the receiver instincts. All of these will limit his ceiling, but he is great with the ball in his hands. If anyone can find a way to make Montgomery effective, it is Aaron Rodgers. It is going to be interesting watching him this year, but he will be back to fourth or fifth on the depth chart in 2016.
3.07 – Zach Zenner, RB DET
Eric O’s thoughts: Zenner has been a preseason darling this year and opened a lot of eyes. With Ameer Abdullah and Zenner in this backfield, the Lions have a younger fresher version of the Reggie Bush/Joique Bell one two punch they’ve implemented the last couple years. Joique is sneaky old and dealing with a problematic Achilles injury. Zenner could carve out a role much sooner than later.
My thoughts: As an upper Midwest guy, Zenner was one of the late round running backs I was watching the closest. Some of the things he did in college definitely had him on my radar. I was quite disappointed when he landed with the Lions and their mass of running backs because I felt he had the potential to be the next great undrafted running back like Fred Jackson, Arian Foster and several others. I believe Zenner has the talent to be a starting running back in the NFL and he has definitely shown flashes this preseason. Now he just needs the chips to fall in the right way so he can show the league what he can do. He doesn’t have elite upside, but he can definitely be a very solid RB2 if he gets a leading role. With Abdullah in town, I think the best case is a committee split with his fellow rookie, which limits his upside to a flex play.
3.08 – Kenny Bell, WR TB
Matt P’s thoughts: Ameer Abdullah’s teammate (and the second Cornhusker I drafted) should eventually emerge as the slot receiver for the Bucs in 2015, but is currently suffering through a hamstring injury after two lackluster performances in the first two preseason games. The 6’1, 197 lbs, receiver exhibited very good competitive and mental toughness at Nebraska and is just an all-around good football player. I was first turned on to him by Matt Waldman in his amazing Rookie Scouting Portfolio where he compared Bell to Hines Ward. He’ll compete with Louis Murphy for targets out of the slot in 2015, but his true value lies in the fact Vincent Jackson is 32 this season and is only under contract for two more seasons. Long-term, Bell could very well be starting opposite Mike Evans beginning in 2017.
My thoughts: Bell was and continues to be one of my favorite late round receivers. I agree with pretty much everything Matt said. I think Bell is the long term complement to Evans and it could be as soon as next year if he proves he can handle it. Jackson has a rather large cap number next year and I’m sure the Bucs would love to funnel some of those funds elsewhere if Bell proves he is capable this year. His eventual upside depends more on the quarterback development, but I would put him down for solid WR3 value in a year or two if he can come along like I expect him to.
3.09 – Jarryd Hayne, RB SF
Mo’s thoughts: My football fandom morphed from casual interest into rabid infatuation around 1989, watching Bo Jackson and Christian Okoye dominate the league. They defined the prototype running back in my mind, instilling fear in tacklers with power and speed, leaving their mark on the game, despite playing only four and six years respectively. The mentality Jarryd Hayne brings to the game as a former rugby star is foreign to running backs entering the league from college. He disposes would be tacklers with an arsenal of stiff arms, shakes and raw power. Granted he has an uphill battle when considering his age and learning curve, but given the opportunity he’ll be absolutely mesmerizing with the ball in his hands and I want a piece of that action.
My thoughts: If you are going to tell me you had Hayne on your fantasy radar more than a month ago, you’re either a diehard rugby fan or lying to me. If you still have no idea who he is, check out this great introduction by our own Jaron Foster. Personally, I think Hayne’s chances of being fantasy relevant are very slim. He could make the team as a returner, but I don’t think he’ll be playing a whole lot of running back. With Carlos Hyde and others on roster, it would be an awfully long hill to climb. In all likelihood, he’s just a great story and an amazing athlete, but he doesn’t belong on fantasy rosters.
3.10 – Chris Conley, WR KC
Austan’s thoughts: Conley is a freak athlete who shredded the combine. He didn’t put up gaudy stats at Georgia, but his athleticism jumped off the screen. If he landed with a better quarterback, he’d likely be going in the late-first or early-second. I don’t think it’ll be long before he’s starting opposite Jeremy Maclin as Kansas City’s second wideout. He’s my favorite third-round players in this year’s rookie draft.
My thoughts: I’m very surprised Conley wasn’t drafted prior to this. In fact, Conley was second on my pre-pick list at 2.12 in this mock. If we are talking about upside in this year’s draft class, Conley needs to be very near the top of that list. I’m a huge fan and if it wasn’t for the ineptitude of Alex Smith, I think we would be talking about Conley as being one of the best rookie receivers of this draft class a few months from now. I’m a huge fan and I’ve written a lot about Conley this off-season. Most recently you can check out this article from late May for more on why I like him.
3.11 – Sammie Coates, WR PIT
Ryan F’s thoughts: My third round dart (and let’s face it, every pick beyond the second round is a crapshoot) goes to Coates, a receiver who may be in for some bonus playing time after the Martavis Bryant suspension. He’s not a slam dunk to get those freed up targets, but he has an awfully good shot at them if he can step up. A third round pick by the Steelers, Coates has great size for the position, and ran a 4.43 40. He’s also shown real dynamic skills after the catch – his problem may be the catch itself. He has a worrying drop rate that can hopefully be corrected.
My thoughts: At one point in time, Coates was in the discussion as a potential first round fantasy pick in rookie drafts. That ship has clearly sailed as Coates is often going in the third round or later these days. He has everything you want in a receiver from the physical standpoint. He has the size and speed teams simply drool over. The problem for him, as Ryan mentioned, is actually catching the ball. It isn’t just questionable hands, he also lacks the ability to track the ball in the air, make contested catches and read defenders to find the open spot. There is a chance he turns into something special, but I think it is more likely he becomes another Stephen Hill. Either way, the upside is definitely there so it makes for a great late third round selection.
3.12 – Karlos Williams, RB BUF
My thoughts: As I’ve mentioned several times, when I’m drafting in the third round I’m all about upside. I want a player who has enough talent they could actually start for a fantasy team if they had the opportunity. Williams definitely fits that mold, at least assuming the 2013 version of Karlos Williams comes back. During the 2013 college season, Williams was looking like one of the best running backs in the country. He easily could have been in the middle round discussion for the NFL Draft and the first round discussion in rookie drafts. Then 2014 came around and he looked absolutely terrible. He seemed unmotivated, out of shape and lost his starting job. I think if anyone can motivate him to bring the 2013 version back it is Rex Ryan.
As for the situation, it couldn’t be much better. Yes, he has missed the preseason with an undisclosed emergency operation (I’m guessing an appendectomy from the bits that have leaked out) but the team has said he will be good to go by the regular season. With the recent release of Fred Jackson (for reference, this mock was prior to the release, so he might go higher now), the Bills seem pretty confident in his ability and his health. I think he’s going to be the primary backup to LeSean McCoy and get a handful of carries in a change of pace role this year as well.
That’s it for the third and final round of our last mock draft prior to the season kickoff. There were several other players who just missed the cut and would likely go in the early fourth round if this mock continued like Rashad Greene, MyCole Pruitt, DeAndre Smelter and Clive Walford to name a few.
Good luck in your drafts if they are still on the horizon!