The biggest weekend of the off-season is behind us, and we now know the second major piece of the value puzzle – the situations. The first major piece is, of course, talent. Now we can clear up an awful lot of the “what ifs” and speculation about what systems all these prospects will be playing in, what kind of opportunity the rookies will have and a little bit about how NFL teams viewed their potential. In my opinion, people tend to under rate that very last one – NFL teams spend millions of dollars scouting players and they have decades of experience doing it. If a player isn’t drafted until the fourth round, that means teams had over 100 opportunities to draft that player and decided there was someone they liked better. That should tell us something. I’m not saying they are perfect, but if a player the fantasy community really liked slides far in the draft, there is likely a reason. Enough of that tangent, let’s get back to the main focus and cover what the draft did to player values!
In order to help give you an idea of what all of this has done, I’m back with 11 other writers to bring you another mock draft. This is not meant to be a rookie ADP (Scott Fish and others have that covered for you) but rather a more detailed look at how our knowledgeable writers view each and every one of the picks. This way you get our thoughts and opinions on what the draft actually did to player value. Keep in mind, we all have our favorites who we like more than most, so there will be some disagreement on where a player should have gone, but that is part of the fun.
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..
Rounds two and three will be appearing in later articles, but here is round one. The top four picks seem to be mostly locked in at this point, though the order will likely vary a lot. Starting at pick five, things are all over the place. Let’s take a look.
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1.01 – Ezekiel Elliot, RB DAL
Jeff Miller’s thoughts: Picking Elliot is easier than eating an entire box of Twinkies in one sitting. Wait, that’s not easy for everybody? Moving along…. What’s not to love? He is big, explosive, has a legit second gear, can play all three downs, and will be running behind the best offensive line in the league. With Dallas wanting to move to a more run oriented scheme to protect Tony Romo and his paper mache skeleton, this is a marriage made in heaven. Zeke is solidly my dynasty RB3.
My thoughts: We’ll get to Jeff’s Twinkie issue later, but when it comes to the pick, even he couldn’t mess this one up. He made the right choice here, so good job Jeff! A few months ago, I had Laquon Treadwell slightly above Elliot, but like pretty much everyone else, I now have Elliot locked in as the top player without any doubt about it. I would be shocked if he isn’t the first pick in your rookie drafts as well. His situation really vaulted him to the top of every list. I’m a bit slower on making him a top three running back because I want to see him in the NFL for at least half a season first, but he definitely has the potential.
1.02 – Laquon Treadwell, WR MIN
Austan Kas’ thoughts: What to do with this pick is going to be the dynasty debate of the summer. I agonized between Treadwell, Josh Doctson and Corey Coleman before ultimately choosing Treadwell — with about as little conviction as possible. I’ve waffled back and forth on these three all off-season, and I still can’t really separate them. Yes, Treadwell tested poorly, but I think the dynasty community has been overly critical of the Ole Miss star. The frame, physicality and on-field dominance at a very young age lead me to put him slightly in front of the other two. I don’t think Minnesota is a terrible landing spot by any means. Teddy Bridgewater hasn’t taken many shots downfield in his two seasons, but now he has a true No. 1 wideout. Treadwell will be the Vikings’ top dog right away.
My thoughts: This is going to be the first major choice of the draft. As Austan mentioned, you can go one of three ways here. Personally, I think it is between Treadwell and Doctson with Treadwell holding the slight edge. I know people won’t like the landing spot, but I actually think Treadwell’s skill set is a great fit for the Vikings. After all, the 40-yard dash speed doesn’t matter if all of the throws are within 20 yards, right? Treadwell’s physicality and ability to win at the point of the catch will quickly win Bridgewater over. He’s going to be the target monster of the offense with the upside to sneak into the lower WR1 ranks.
1.03 – Josh Doctson, WR WAS
Nick Whalen’s thoughts: I seem to be one of the few who’s excited with this landing spot. Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson are both 29 years old. Garçon is an UFA after the season and both could be cap casualties as they both make over $9 million this season. If they both return, the only viable threat in the redzone is the six-time concussed TE, Jordan Reed. Add all of that together and Doctson has a bright future with Kirk Cousins, who seems to be developing well with Jay Gruden. I’m not expecting big numbers in 2016 from Doctson, but I expect him to be good in 2017 and beyond. With his big frame, competitive nature and athletic ability, I see very good things in his future.
My thoughts: While I wouldn’t say I’m excited about the landing spot (largely because I’m not 100 percent sold on Cousins), I definitely don’t mind it. It is better than a lot of the other spots he could have gone. It might mean he could start a bit slower this year as Nick mentioned, but if you’re counting on a rookie receiver to be a consistent producer, you need to re-evaluate your plans. Doctson was easily a top three pick for me before the draft, and his landing spot definitely didn’t change that. He should be the top target for Washington in just a few short years.
1.04 – Corey Coleman, WR CLE
Brian Bulmer’s thoughts: Corey Coleman is a playmaker. I love his athleticism and explosiveness off the line of scrimmage. He is able to run past defenders and make tough, contested catches in traffic. Coleman lands on a team that has limited playmakers and immediately becomes a WR1 in an offense that struggles to generate points. His metrics from the combine compare to that of Odell Beckham. Although he struggles with drops on occasion, he makes up for it when the ball is in his hands. He can literally score from anywhere on the field. Coleman will likely be a boom/bust fantasy player from week-to-week until he refines his route running. He plays with an edge and reminds me a lot of Steve Smith the way he competes when the ball is in the air. I would take Coleman as high as 1.03 in my drafts with Elliott and Treadwell before him.
My thoughts: I’m going to tap the brakes on Coleman just a little bit. I know he is one of the “consensus top four” players in rookie drafts right now, but he is easily my least favorite of the four. I don’t see the comparison to Beckham at all other than they are both a little undersized and fast. Beckham is a much, much better catcher of the football and a better route runner. Coleman is severely lacking in both of these areas. In my eyes, Coleman is one of the best athletes in this draft class, and he just happens to be trying to learn the receiver position. He has a long way to go and he’s going to need a coach, quarterback and system to support him and his unique skill set. I’m not sold he is going to have that in Cleveland. With the ball in his hands, he is certainly dynamic, then again so was Percy Harvin. Much like Harvin, the issue is going to be getting the ball there.
1.05 – Sterling Shepard, WR NYG
Scott Peak’s thoughts: There is a lot to like about Shepard. He isn’t necessarily fast but he can create separation with head fakes, subtle body movements and excellent route running. He was productive in college, finishing last season with 11 touchdowns and 1,288 yards. He has good hands, with only three drops in 2015. He ran a solid 4.48 40-yard dash, tied for first with 20 bench press reps and tied for first with a 41-inch vertical leap. Shepard joins a solid organization and should get targets from Eli Manning in the slot. I think Shepard has a chance to be a solid WR2 in dynasty leagues.
My thoughts: When this pick first happened, I was honestly a little surprised. Then after a bit of time and a very insightful question from our own Ryan McDowell, it started to make more sense. I don’t know that Shepard is my own personal choice for the fifth pick, but I think he is going to be a fairly common one. At this point, you can really make a case for six different players in this draft with Shepard being pretty close to the top of that list because of the situation. He isn’t going to ever be a WR1, but he won’t need to be. He can be a very good complement to Beckham and a great security blanket for Eli Manning. The only questions are how high of a ceiling he has and where will he fit in the pecking order?
1.06 – Derrick Henry, RB TEN
Izzy Elkaffas’ thoughts: This is a selection by default. I dislike Michael Thomas and Will Fuller more than anyone else in the draft and Tyler Boyd doesn’t have enough upside opposite AJ Green to warrant a pass on Henry. Although the destination is mind-blowing and confusing, you have to be cognizant of Tennessee ignoring positions of need for Henry. For that reason, I have to expect Henry to get at least half of the workload even with the highly paid DeMarco Murray in the backfield. Plain and simple, after the top few picks, Henry presents the highest upside of anyone else in this draft and is solid value as the sixth player off the board.
My thoughts: I’ve never been a huge fan of Henry’s prospects in the NFL. He was a great college player, but I’m not sure how well his skill set transitions to the NFL. His landing spot just further muddies the water for me when it comes to how he will do in the NFL. Personally, I think Murray is declining after the Cowboys destroyed his career with that workload, but the Titans must disagree if they were willing to trade for that contract. Maybe they view Henry as more of a specialist or someone who can be the future in a few years. I’m not sure. Their choice is confusing as Izzy mentioned. As for the fantasy pick, I would have gone with one of the receivers over Henry, but you can’t fault anyone for going Henry at this point in the draft.
1.07 – Michael Thomas, WR NO
Matt Price’s thoughts: There are few landing spots that would have been better for Michael Thomas. With the departure of Marques Colston and Ben Watson, Thomas’ size will make him the Saints’ best red zone threat from day one. Brandin Cooks is best suited as an NFL WR2 so there is an opportunity available for Thomas to be New Orleans’ WR1. Coby Fleener and Willie Snead are also there so there is a chance that Thomas could be Brees’ fourth option and won’t see enough targets to be a reliable week to week option, especially in year one.
My thoughts: Thomas has always been in my top five receivers and the draft definitely didn’t change that for me. In my mind, going to the Saints was one of the better landing spots for him. He fills a desperate need since the Saints didn’t have a single reliable target over six feet tall. The Saints run three receiver sets about as much as anyone else in the league, so you know Thomas is going to see the field even if Willie Snead and Cooks are ahead of him on the depth chart. He has the talent and I trust Drew Brees and Sean Payton to coach him up, turning him into their top outside receiver and a fantasy force. My only concern is how much Brees spreads the ball around, which means the ball isn’t going to be forced to Thomas even if he does become a top target.
1.08 – Will Fuller, WR HOU
My thoughts: I was really hoping Thomas would drop this far for me (which he might in a few drafts), but he didn’t in this case. This meant I had to decide between Fuller and Boyd, who went with the very next pick. It was a tough choice since the two of them are right next to each other in my rankings. I ultimately went with Fuller for two reasons. One, I think he has a clearer path to fantasy success. They are both going to play second fiddle to stud receivers, so that is a push. However, I believe Boyd will be at best the third target in his offense while Fuller could turn into the secondary target. The other feather in Fuller’s cap is the draft position. First-round receivers have a much higher rate of fantasy success than those taken in any other round.
When it comes to talent, I’ve seen a lot of comparisons for Fuller. I think he has the potential to be a little bit more well-rounded than just a deep threat. He has shown the ability to run more routes, though he still needs a lot of work on the nuances. He’ll need to spend a bit more time working on his hands, because he isn’t a natural pass catcher like a lot of the greats. With some time and effort he does have the potential to give Houston one of the best 1-2 combos of receivers in the league. This gives him the upside as a WR2 in fantasy leagues, but he’s going to be rather inconsistent, especially at the start.
1.09 – Tyler Boyd, WR CIN
Eric Olinger’s thoughts: Boyd was a big name entering last season but has since fallen in the ranks. His workout numbers didn’t help matters but the guy performs on game days. He owns pretty much every important wide receiver record at Pitt. Impressive when you consider Larry Fitzgerald is a Pitt alumni. I love Boyd in Cincinnati. With AJ Green and Tyler Eifert drawing the focus of defenses, Boyd should only have to deal with one on one coverage. I like the value here.
My thoughts: I was lower than most on Boyd prior to the draft. I had him as a late first-round pick in fantasy drafts because I didn’t think he could be the leading receiver on an NFL team. Instead, I pictured him as more of a complement to a true No. 1. Low and behold, that is exactly what happened. The situation is a perfect match for his talent level, and he should turn into one of the better second receivers in the NFL. The question I have in terms of fantasy value is how many fantasy starters can Andy Dalton support? We already have Green and Eifert as two of the better players at their respective positions. Mix in Gio Bernard out of the backfield, and I wonder how much is left. The third or fourth target for Dalton might not be much better than a WR3 on your fantasy squad.
1.10 – Kenneth Dixon, RB BAL
Adam Tzikas’ thoughts: Bit of a chalk pick here at ten. Dixon was my pre-draft RB3 and is still firmly in that slot. I waxed poetically about his potential in a rookie profile dedicated to him and I think his role in Baltimore is a great fit. An extremely agile player, with excellent catching prowess will push for snaps immediately. Still lacking a pure between the tackles rusher, Dixon will add a decent punch to Buck Allen and the quickly aging out Justin Forsett.
My thoughts: I think the tenth pick might be about as low as you see Dixon going in rookie drafts. There are a lot of people who love the situation in Baltimore. I know I’m not a huge fan of Allen and Forsett is definitely near the end. It is quite possible that by the end of this season we are talking about Dixon as the leading rusher for the Ravens. I’m going to throw a bit of cold water on the situation though before anyone gets too carried away. Dixon isn’t a special running back in my eyes. What I mean by that is he lacks the “wow” factor. He can be a high end RB2, but I don’t think he will ever be a top five rusher in the NFL.
1.11 – Jordan Howard, RB CHI
Kevin O’Brien’s thoughts: Jordan Howard was selected by the Chicago Bears in the fifth round as the 150th pick overall. He was the tenth running back taken in the draft. He joins Jeremy Langford for a role in the Bears offense in what I would view as a favorable landing spot. Howard is a strong aggressive runner who will square up his shoulders and create effective leverage on contact, using his 6-foot-0, 230-pound frame very well. He demonstrates plus vision, with adequate speed however, can tend to hit holes with his pad level too high and doesn’t always accelerate with an ideal frame. Langford has been a more productive in PPR with his receiving numbers, but is a subpar runner. Howard and Langford will provide good versatility for the Bears offense as Langford can handle passing situations and Howard can grind out yards between the tackles.
My thoughts: I would feel a lot better about this pick if we are in the second round of this mock right now. In the first round, I think this is a little bit of a reach. I think Howard is more insurance and a short-yardage specialist than someone who will challenge Langford for the starting role. He might be an okay flex play in touchdown heavy leagues, but outside of that, I don’t foresee a situation where you would be starting Howard unless Langford gets hurt. The Bears seem poised to move forward with Langford as the starter, and I think he is talented enough to keep Howard in a backup role.
1.12 – Paul Perkins, RB NYG
Trevor Bucher’s thoughts: This is definitely a case of situation causing a rise for me. Perkins is a running back with an all-around skill set that I liked, but figured he would fall into a bad situation. Instead, he falls into one of the better rookie running back situations, especially for someone with his skills. The three- or four-headed monster the Giants employed in 2015 left a lot to be desired, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Ben McAdoo was looking for one back to step up to the plate, and that could well be Perkins. Disclaimer: I’m a Giants fan and I love his fit.
My thoughts: I swore off running backs from the Giants a few years ago. With Tom Coughlin (the granddaddy of the running back by committee movement) as the coach, you knew they were going to use at least three if not four running backs on a regular basis. With a change in coaching staffs, we could see that movement reversed, but I’m not convinced that will be the case. I think Perkins could be doomed to a committee role, which could limit his upside. Of course the potential is there that he could take command of the situation, which means someone is going to spend a late first on him, but I’m going to let someone else take that risk.
That concludes our look at the first round. We will be back with the later rounds very soon.