The long, painful wait is over and the NFL season is finally upon us. The final few preseason games are being played, and the regular season is just around the corner. In just days now we will be worrying about who to start and who to sit. In the meantime, some of you still need to draft your rookies. If you already drafted, now is the time to make your final evaluations and take advantage of what might be your last chance to nab a late round rookie before they break out or sell an early round one before they bust. In order to help you we are back with one final rookie mock.
For this mock, we did three rounds with twelve teams. We assumed PPR scoring and traditional lineups (so not a 2QB or superflex league). All of the drafters were asked to give a brief intro to their selection, and I’ll be providing some additional thoughts on each one as well. These are just our personal opinions on the rookies, so it is likely there could be some disagreement which is perfectly okay. The goal is to provide you with as many different perspectives as possible with the start of the season just around the corner. Let’s take a look at the picks.
If you missed the first round or the second round, be sure to go back and take a look.
**Special Note: This mock was conducted prior to preseason games. Anything which occurred, good or bad, during those games did not factor into this mock.**
25 – Hunter Henry, TE SD
Brian’s thoughts: I am not a big fan of taking rookie tight ends, but in the third round I would be thrilled to land Henry. Henry was the top tight end taken in the draft early in round two of the 2016 NFL draft. He is a balanced tight end who is a willing run blocker and was the best pass catching tight end in the class. Henry didn’t drop a single pass last season in Arkansas, and received rave reviews about his play during rookie mini camp. Rivers has loved Antonio Gates as a pass catching tight end for the last decade, so it can’t hurt Henry to learn from a guy like Gates.
My thoughts: I don’t see a ton of difference between Henry and Austin Hooper, who was drafted almost half a round sooner than Henry in this mock. Henry is probably a little bit more talented, but I think Hooper has a clearer path to playing time in the short term. If you’re willing to wait on Henry, just like every rookie tight end, it could pay off big. He has the talent to be a starting tight end in the NFL, and Rivers has shown he loves using the tight end position. Who knows how much longer Gates will be there, but Henry has a chance to learn from the best and turn into an asset.
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26 – Tyler Ervin, RB HOU
Nathan’s thoughts: When looking for late round rookie picks, there are two things I look at to find targets. First, I look at draft capital compared to the positions off the board. Ervin was the RB12 off the board in this draft, and went even later in some rookie drafts, but he was the fifth running back selected in the NFL draft. Second, I look at the depth chart. Ervin is the only legitimate option at running back behind Lamar Miller, in the event of a Miller injury, Ervin has the profile with 294 carries in his final college season to become a workhorse in the NFL.
My thoughts: I don’t know what to make of Ervin. I was shocked he was taken so early by the Texans in the NFL draft, because I don’t see him turning into an every down NFL running back. He has some holes in his game and his frame is quite thin for an NFL rusher. None the less, there is some opportunity here. As Nathan mentions, the Texans’ depth chart is wide open behind Miller. Should an injury occur someone will need to step up, and the Texans must have plans for Ervin given where they drafted him. Definitely worth a shot in the third.
27 – Alex Collins, RB SEA
Austan’s thoughts: Collins is a player I’ve scooped up in several rookie drafts this summer, and I just covered him as part of our Summer Sleeper Series. Even if Thomas Rawls is fully healthy for the start of the year, Collins’ outstanding college career — three straight 1,000-yard seasons at Arkansas — and good tape are more than enough for me to take him, especially at his discounted price. I don’t think there is much of a talent gap between C.J. Prosise and Collins, and if Rawls isn’t healthy, I believe Collins will be the early-down back in Seattle. He’s actually my fifth-ranked back in this class — ahead of both Washington and Smallwood, who I took earlier — and I’m loving his current draft cost.
My thoughts: Seattle is a major mess with Rawls, Christine Michael, Prosise and Collins all in the mix for carries. I question if Rawls will get back to his old self or not, and I think Prosise is falling behind with the injury issues during camp. That leaves Michael and Collins to divvy up a potent rushing attack. It is anyone’s guess who might come out ahead if Rawls is out of the picture, so it is definitely worth a shot on Collins. He has the talent to be an early down rusher in the NFL, and the Seahawks have the offense to make him viable in that role.
28 – Rashard Higgins, WR CLE
Dan’s thoughts: Higgins is a player I seem to be grabbing in every draft. Well above average at high pointing the ball, and great hands to boot, Cleveland could look to him in the red zone relatively often. Drafting a handful of pass catchers, Higgins being the fifth and final, the Browns are hoping something sticks aside from their first round pick Corey Coleman. I think there is a good chance that Higgins is that guy. There is going to be plenty of opportunity, and knowing that Higgins has sticky hands, he may be relevant sooner rather than later. He does run lackluster routes, and struggles a little off of the line, so he’ll have a good amount of work to do. But, as a late round flier, it doesn’t get much better than Higgins.
My thoughts: The Browns are looking to completely remake their receiver corps with this year’s draft. They have Coleman and potentially Josh Gordon, but it is wide open after that. Like Dan, my pick for the third receiver is Higgins. He has a lot of work to do and will need to refine a lot of parts of his game, but I think he’s the most talented of the group and could see some playing time. Of course there are major questions about what the third receiver for the Browns will be worth, but if Gordon doesn’t make it back or injuries occur, Higgins could make something of it.
29 – Paxton Lynch, QB DEN
Bruce’s thoughts: Lynch is the safest asset in this range because his stock will increase once he earns the starting quarterback job in Denver. The Broncos drafted him in the first round with the hopes that he becomes the team’s starting quarterback in the near future. Being tethered to Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders can only be a positive, since they are arguably one of the best receiving duos in the league. All the other prospects in this range are risky and Lynch is the only one without a shadow of doubt will eventually see the field.
My thoughts: When it comes to the quarterbacks, I think Lynch is significantly behind Jared Goff and Carson Wentz. He’s a bit of a lottery ticket and more of a long term investment. I don’t think Lynch will see much time this year and might even struggle to make a meaningful impact in 2017 with the Broncos. He has a long way to go if he is going to become an NFL quarterback. I don’t know if he will ever get there, but the Broncos are going to give him every chance they can. That’s more than can be said for almost every other rookie you’re going to draft in the third round.
30 – Roger Lewis, WR NYG
Austan’s thoughts: Much like Collins, Lewis is a player I own in several leagues. This is probably a reach, but I don’t love anyone else this late and I’m a believer in Lewis’ talent. I wrote an in-depth piece about Lewis’ background and college production earlier this off-season. In short, he’s considerably more talented than most undrafted free agents, and the Giants are a great landing spot, especially if Victor Cruz can’t get back to 100 percent. Lewis has generated some good buzz in camp, and I think he’s a worthy late-round flier. It’s probably a longshot, but the kid can play.
My thoughts: I think if this had been a four round mock draft, Austan would have likely waited until the fourth to take Lewis. Since it is just a three round mock, he took advantage of his chance to take Lewis and talk about him a little bit. If I’m being completely honest, Lewis really isn’t on my radar. The Giants are hurting for receiver depth, and there is a chance Lewis could step up to eventually become the third receiver on the team, but I’m probably not spending a roster spot on him.
31 – Braxton Miller, WR HOU
My thoughts: When it comes to the third round of rookie drafts it is time to turn your sights to upside. You don’t need to spend draft picks on players who will be WR5s or a running back who might be a bye week fill in. There are going to be aging veterans who fit those roles on the waiver wire. Instead it is time to start swinging for the fences. We know from history that the vast majority of third round picks will be off fantasy rosters within a year or two, so why not go big!
Braxton Miller is one of my favorite gambles in this draft. He’s one of the best athletes to come out of the college ranks in recent memory, and he brings a special skill set to the NFL. He’s also about as raw as you can get for a receiver. If he can actually figure out how the play the position in the NFL, he could join DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller as one of the youngest and most dynamic trios in the league. It is a long shot, but so is pretty much everyone else in the third round.
32 – Jonathan Williams, RB BUF
Brian’s thoughts: In May, we thought Buffalo’s depth chart was Williams’s biggest obstacle. Now, Buffalo’s depth chart is in shambles, and Williams is part of the problem. He’ll be suspended week one for an off-season DUI. Karlos Williams was out of shape this off-season and faces a four-game suspension for violating the league’s PED policy. And LeSean McCoy has battled injury and off-field concerns of his own. McCoy’s understudy is a valuable lottery ticket, and Jonathan Williams has a pretty good chance of earning that role. If he has it by week six, I’ll hold until he gets an opportunity. If he doesn’t, I’ll probably cut him. But that’s what I want out of a third round pick: a quick value gain or the ability to quickly cut my (minimal) losses.
(Editor’s note: Karlos Williams has since been released by the Buffalo Bills. Read about the dynasty fallout from the move here.)
My thoughts: Williams is continuing a bit of a trend. Like the other running backs drafted in this round, people are trying to target rookies who might end up number two on the depth chart of their respective teams. It is a very sound strategy for people in the third round. I think Williams still might have a fairly tough climb to that spot. Mike Gillislee is my pick for the second string running back, and the addition of Reggie Bush just further muddies the water. None the less, Williams does have a lot of potential should he be given a chance.
33 – Pharoh Cooper, WR LA
Ryan’s thoughts: Former South Carolina receiver Pharoh Cooper has a lot of red flags in his game and he is far from a pure pass catcher, but all he did in college was produce when he had the ball in his hand, and that was early and often for the Gamecocks. The Rams receiver group is deep but lacks top end talent. Cooper could establish himself as the go to option out of the slot, but he could also get lost in the shuffle of the depth chart. Based on his college performance, my prediction is closer to the former.
My thoughts: I struggle a little bit with Cooper. He’s a playmaker when the ball is in his hands, but he has a hard time getting it there thanks to his struggles as a receiver, much in the mold of Tavon Austin. The issue is he went to the team which already has Austin. I’m not sure how Jeff Fisher is going to make room on the field for both Austin and Cooper at the same time, and I think Austin is more talented. Cooper could find a role, but I don’t know if Fisher is creative enough to use both of them.
34 – Mike Thomas, WR LA
Trevor’s thoughts: Jeff Fisher’s teams aren’t generally a hotbed of fantasy WR production. Cooper went one pick before this, and there are already at least three wide receivers ahead of Thomas on the depth chart (Tavon Austin, Kenny Britt, and Brian Quick). These are the downsides to selecting Thomas. The upside is that even with all of that, the Rams still haven’t had a player put a stranglehold on the WR1 role on their team. At this price, I’ll put in a flier on Mike Thomas being a guy that develops into that role as I like his tape and ability. Add in that Jared Goff had a good red zone rapport with Kenny Lawler, and I view the WR1 on the Rams as having a decent touchdown ceiling over the next several years. I considered Keith Marshall, but I’m really just not that high on him.
My thoughts: I’ve never been on the Mike Thomas bandwagon, but it is much easier to tolerate him as a late third round selection than it was a few months ago when he was going in the middle of the second round. I’m not too high on his prospects of panning out, but he does have the potential to rise through the crowded ranks to become a top target for Goff. I think he is fairly raw and is going to need a fair amount of time to transition to an NFL style of game, but he does have the size and speed to play outside and fill a need for the Rams.
35 – Keith Marshall, RB WAS
Mike’s thoughts: Keith Marshall (5-foot-11, 219 pounds) is someone I took a flier on even though he has been struggling in camp. Marshall has never shown the ability to stay healthy as he only averaged 45.3 carries in his last three seasons at Georgia. He finished his college career with 253-1,379-12 rushing and 24-225-3 receiving. He is a burner running a blazing 4.31 forty-yard dash and pressed 225 pounds 25 times, if that is of significance. Even though he had a light workload in practice, he claims he is completely healthy, and over any injury he had at Georgia. The hardest aspect to consider is that he was running behind Mack Brown at rookie camp and being a seventh-round draft choice could put him in jeopardy of making the 53-man roster. The positive news is that Matt Jones is the only athlete standing in his way, and that can change if Jones continues to show inconsistencies.
My thoughts: Washington has one of the thinnest depth charts in the NFL at the running back position. Jones is unproven and there really isn’t anyone else on the roster right now with any kind of experience. Marshall has a ton of talent, but he’s proven over and over that he can’t stay on the field. He’s a true wild card because if he can figure out how to stay available he has the ability to be a great running back. Somehow I doubt he will manage to stay in one piece to take advantage of the opportunity.
36 – Keyarris Garrett, WR CAR
Eric’s thoughts: With the final pick in this draft I selected the player who I think could have the biggest payoff down the road. Garrett led the NCAA in receiving yards last year but went undrafted. He signed with Carolina as a priority free agent and finds himself currently buried behind Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess. Like Benjamin and Funchess, Garrett is a big body target for Cam Newton and long term insurance in case injuries happen to either of the starting pass catchers. God help secondaries if they put all three on the field at once with tight end Greg Olsen.
My thoughts: Heading into the draft, Garrett was generating some hype as a solid middle round sleeper. When he completely fell out of the draft it surprised a lot of people. He definitely has size to go with solid athletic ability. However, there must have been something NFL teams didn’t like about him. He did play at a lower competition level coming from Tulsa, but there needs to be more. Some have questions his focus, effort, and attitude at times but I haven’t found much from credible sources. He does have a bit of an injury history. Whatever it was, in the late third he is well worth the risk. Should Benjamin or Funchess falter or get hurt, Garrett could get some major playing time and a chance to prove himself.
That’s it for our last mock of the off-season. Are you happy with the 36 we drafted or did we miss one of your favorites? Either way, I hope this helps you out if you are a late drafter. Good luck with the season!