Mid-August has finally arrived and that means training camps are in full swing, depth charts are starting to fall into place, injuries are unfortunately occurring, and player stocks are rising and falling. For some of you, it is also time for your rookie drafts. Even if you drafted this spring, it is the perfect time to start sending out some pre-season trade offers. In either case, we are back with one last mock draft to help give you more perspective on the rookie class of 2017.
For this mock, I was joined by 11 other DLF writers just as the first round of the preseason was kicking off – that means we knew about the first few weeks of training camp when we drafted. However, we had no knowledge of any injuries, performances, or other news that happened during or since the first set of games.
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. Personal opinion is of course still in play. We all have our favorites and those we just don’t like for some reason. So don’t take this as a ranking or the way a rookie draft should go right now. It is just an example of one rookie draft. Things are still fluid, even at this late stage. There will of course be misses and disagreements, but that is a part of the fun! Enjoy!
1.01 – Leonard Fournette, RB JAC
Jeff’s thoughts: He has always been my 1.01, even before Corey Davis began to slide a bit. He has prototypical size and speed, and without injury concerns he’s the easy selection at 1.01. Even with the recent injury issues, he’s still my clear choice.
My thoughts: If you go back a year, Fournette was a virtual lock for the top spot in the 2017 rookie draft. Then he had a slightly disappointing year in college (in part due to injury) and Corey Davis continued to impress – this put Davis in the top spot for almost everyone for a few months. The pendulum seems to be swinging back to the other way now. There is some talk of Chris Ivory and/or TJ Yeldon being involved, but you don’t draft a running back where the Jaguars did and have him be a part of a committee. It’s Fournette’s backfield and I think the Jaguars are going to lean on him in hopes of hiding their quarterback. I think he’s the Rookie of the Year in fantasy and reality.
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1.02 – Corey Davis, WR TEN
Tommy’s thoughts: The dynasty community seems to have gone off him a little bit now, but we should remember he was a top five NFL pick and seems to be playing the classic X receiver role in Tennessee. The sky is the limit and he still offers a relatively safe floor. I’d much rather have that than a far more risky option at running back. It’s easy for us to be jaded by Davis, but for those people drafting late, he’s sure to still be a red hot name.
My thoughts: With all the nice things I just said about Fournette, you’re probably a little surprised to hear me say I still have Davis as the 1.01 in rookie drafts. Yes, he has the hamstring issue and it’s slowing down his learning curve – that could definitely cause a slow start to the year and potentially limit his production overall this year, but this is dynasty we’re talking about. Go back and look at some of the receivers taken in the first six picks of the NFL draft. Unless they struggle with injuries (Sammy Watkins) or off the field issues (Justin Blackmon), they turn into stars. Outside of Watkins and Blackmon, the other receivers drafted in the top six over the last decade are Amari Cooper, AJ Green, Julio Jones and the immortal Megatron – that’s pretty promising company. I like Davis’ long term prospects as a franchise cornerstone for the next decade.
1.03 – Christian McCaffrey, RB CAR
Nick’s thoughts: I have McCaffrey, Mixon and Cook all really close, so this wasn’t an obvious choice. I think all three players have similar ceilings but McCaffrey has a higher floor, not to mention the highest draft capital. His short term outlook is muddled by the presence of Jonathan Stewart and the possible lack of touchdown upside, but Cook and Mixon present much bigger risks. If the Panthers follow through on their word and make McCaffrey a focal point of the offense in both the passing and running game, the sky’s the limit.
My thoughts: A month or so ago, this decision was just between two players, McCaffrey and Mixon, and it was all about your risk tolerance. I think Nick is dead on in saying most people view this as a three horse race now, though I still think it is between the same two. McCaffrey is definitely the safer pick. He won’t have nearly the same kind of production on the ground as some of the other rookie running backs, but I think he is an under appreciated rusher. What he will do is blow all of them away in the passing game. I actually think McCaffrey is already the best receiver on the Panthers, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he pushed for 75 receptions or more. That’s pretty special.
1.04 – Joe Mixon, RB CIN
Ryan M’s thoughts: While there is still clearly some risk involved with using valuable draft capital on Mixon, he has also been called the most talented back in this stacked class. Mixon is ironically enough a perfect combination of Bengals runners Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill. He’s an excellent pass catcher and also has the power to run between the tackles or even serve as a goal line back. In my opinion, he’s clearly deserving of a spot in the top tier of rookie drafts, meaning this 1.04 spot is the latest I would expect to draft him.
My thoughts: If McCaffrey is the safer choice, Mixon is the lottery ticket. There are, of course, some risks. We all know about the off the field issues, which I personally feel were a little overblown. I’m not in any way, shape, or form downplaying what he did. I just don’t see the pattern of behavior I need to see before I get super concerned. For me, more of the risk actually comes on the field. He’s entering a very crowded backfield. How much of the load will he be allowed to carry this year? I think that will be the limiting factor on him long before any off the field issues.
1.05 – Dalvin Cook, RB MIN
Rob’s thoughts: This was the easiest pick of the draft. The obvious Big Five were on the board and I actually ended up with my fourth ranked player. Cook has aced every step of the off-season process, showing a willingness to pick up pass protections, advanced receiving skills, and the ability to create his own yards, a skill which will come in handy given the Vikings’ offensive line is still a work in progress, to put it kindly. With Latavius Murray just returning to the practice field, Cook has taken the starting gig and is unlikely to give it back. By this time next year, we could be discussing him as a first round start-up pick, making an excellent value in the middle of round one.
My thoughts: I feel the need to tap the brakes a little bit here. Is Cook worthy of the fifth pick in a rookie draft? Yes, he is. Would I take him at this pick? Absolutely not. I would be trying to trade down a few spots. If you are a listener of the DLF podcast, you know Cook just gives me a bit of an “Icky” feeling. Maybe it is my perception of his inconsistent effort in college, the fumbling issues, the injury concerns, or the off the field pattern of behavior. I could easily be wrong, but he isn’t a player I’m going to own on any of my teams. From a football standpoint, I still think Murray will be the short yardage and goal line back. That might limit the touchdowns, but Cooks could in theory still get 250 touches, which could push for RB1 numbers. I just don’t have a great feeling about him.
1.06 – Kareem Hunt, RB KC
Trevor’s thoughts: Conventional wisdom has Mike Williams going here, but I am not a fan of his situation currently whereas I love Hunt’s situation. Specifically, Williams’ back injury is a big shy away point for me. Recent history with rookies missing time over the summer hasn’t played out well, OBJ notwithstanding. Furthermore, once he does get back to practice he has a tough path to relevance on the Chargers, who are loaded with playmakers. I just don’t think he makes an impact anytime soon. On the Hunt side of things, I love the upside and usage of Andy Reid’s RB1s. While Spencer Ware started off hot last year, he cooled off by mid-season and was ceding carries to Charcandrick West – that doesn’t really bode well for his continued workhorse role in 2017. With this selection, I am indicating I believe in Hunt’s skill set as an impact player for 2017 as the season wears on, and that I also believe he can maintain that role for several years.
My thoughts: Few players have risen more over the last six months than Hunt. Before the combine, he was more of a middle or late second round selection. Once the draft occurred, he was a fixture in the mid-to-late first round. Now he’s creeping into the top six on a fairly regular basis, Trevor isn’t the only one. Andy Reid’s system has always produced great running backs. Just stop and think about it for a moment. Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, and even Spencer Ware last year. Granted, some of them were exceptional talents and have produced without Reid, but they were all ultra productive with him. Hunt is already starting to take first team reps, and I think it is only a matter of time. I don’t see superstar upside in him, but back end RB1 numbers are definitely possible.
1.07 – Mike Williams, WR LAC
Eric’s thoughts: Is this real life? Did Mike Williams really just slide to 1.07? I’ll gladly take him here and tread water until he gets healthy. The dude can flat out ball and catches everything.
My thoughts: In his discussion about the 1.06 pick, I think Trevor did a great job summing up the concerns about Williams. Considering Williams was often towards the back end of the top six before the injury, I think it is entirely possible he slides to the 1.07 or maybe even a few picks later than this in fall rookie drafts. Williams still has a lot of fans and some are still firm believers he is the top receiver in this draft class. I’m not one of them, but I can see the appeal. He has a huge catch radius with monster hands. I personally just don’t see the superstar upside, though. To me, he is a better version of Kelvin Benjamin, who I’m not a fan of at all.
1.08 – David Njoku, TE CLE
Peter’s thoughts: There’s a rankings cluster in this range that I have a hard time deciding between. I want Juju, and better minds than mine advocate for John Ross. Rookie tight ends take a long time to produce and that’s no fun with a first round pick. However, if my team’s good, then I’m taking the most likely superstar at their position here and Njoku is that player for me. I dread the long wait and opportunity cost.
My thoughts: Pick 1.08 has turned into a blessing and a curse in rookie drafts. It gives you the opportunity to pick your favorite player in the next tier of prospects, but that also means it is terrible from a value standpoint. The player selected here really isn’t any better from a value standpoint than several picks later. With that said, this is one of the very few times I’ve seen Njoku be the first of the big three tight ends. Part of that is the absolute mess Cleveland has become, but I also think he is viewed as the most raw of the big three. Combine the two, and I think you are looking at more risk and a longer wait time before you see a potential return. I can see the attraction, but I would have gone elsewhere.
1.09 – Evan Engram, TE NYG
Ryan F’s thoughts: 1.09 is about the same place I would have expected to take Engram just after the draft. There hasn’t been any news that has brought Engram down in my estimation, so his value hasn’t dropped in my mind. It isn’t the most exciting pick, but when you’re at the back half of the first things do get a little dicey. I’m happy with Engram here and though I won’t expect a ton out of him in year one in New York, but I do believe Engram is a future star at the position. He doesn’t have the size of some players but makes up for it with huge athletic ability and that 4.42 forty. I also like the landing spot, though the future of Eli Manning does give me a twinge of worry.
My thoughts: I know quite a few people who have Engram as the top tight end in this year’s draft class, largely due to the athletic ability he possesses. He is a true mismatch at the tight end position and as soon as he figures out how to be a complete tight end, he should be lighting up the stat sheet. I think he has the potential to be the number two target in this offense, possibly as soon as 2018. However, Ryan does bring up the key factor in all of this. Tight ends take some time to develop and Manning’s clock is definitely ticking. By the time Engram is ready to blossom, will the Giants be on the decline?
1.10 – Zay Jones, WR BUF
My thoughts: This was a really difficult choice for me. I went back and forth a few times between Jones and Howard. I really like both players. In fact, I now have both of them ahead of that last few players who were selected. Ultimately, the news of Sammy Watkins being traded away made me go with Jones at this spot. After all, the Bills wouldn’t trade away their top receiver if they weren’t happy with what they have seen from the rookie.
Ultra productive in college, Jones has the work ethic, physical ability, and the mindset to be the focal point of a passing offense. As a rookie, he obviously has some things to work on in his game, but he knows that as well. I don’t think the Bills will be a pass first team anytime in the near future and McCoy will definitely catch a LOT of passes out of the backfield, but I think Jones has high end WR2 upside in him. I think he’s a great pick in the middle to late first round and he’s going to be given the chance to succeed sooner rather than later. He’s high floor player in my book.
1.11 – OJ Howard, TE TB
Joseph’s thoughts: Howard was being drafted much earlier than this in rookie drafts back in May, and not a whole lot has changed since. There has been a general lack of buzz about Howard since the NFL Draft, but I’m ecstatic to land him at this point. He’s a terrific receiver and blocker with freakish athleticism. Dating back to his time at Florida State, Jameis Winston has always loved to target his tight ends, particularly in the red zone. Yes, Howard has stiff competition for targets this season, but we’re conditioned to expect a season or two of minimal tight end production before they truly break out anyway. Howard is a great value at the end of the first round here.
My thoughts: I still have Howard as the top tight end of the big three, so I was really surprised to see him be the third one off the board. He is already the most complete tight end of the group, and he has the skill set and body type to stay that way. We could be talking about one of the next great tight ends here, especially given the situation he walked into. I think he’s going to be a perennial top five tight end in fantasy leagues as soon as he gets it all figured out. Just remember, tight ends do take some time to develop. If you drafted him, just be patient.
1.12 – Alvin Kamara, RB NO
Kyle’s thoughts: I was thrilled to land Kamara with the twelfth pick considering he is seventh in my personal rankings. I love his fit in New Orleans. It might be the best possible landing spot for him considering Saints running backs are routinely among the league leaders in targets for their position. Many people, including coach Sean Payton, have praised Kamara during training camp and he played well in his first preseason game. The Saints moved up in the draft, giving up a 2018 second round pick in the process, to get Kamara. They clearly have a plan for him.
There is competition in the backfield this year with Mark Ingram, Adrian Peterson and Travaris Cadet in the mix, but Kamara should lock up the pass-catching role at some point this year. The Saints are going to have fun finding different ways to get him the ball in space.
My thoughts: I’ve soured just a little bit on Kamara over the last few months. Yes, he’s great in space and can catch the ball well, but there are so many mouths to feed in New Orleans right now. Ingram is a pretty good pass catcher as well and people seem to be forgetting that. I think Kamara is going to be one of those players who is a much better NFL player than they are a fantasy player because I don’t know where he fits on a consistent basis. I think you’re going to be playing with fire any time you start him. He could have two catches for 11 yards or eight for 98 yards. It’s tough to swallow that risk, so he’s a few slots later than this pick for me.
That’s it for round one. We will be back with the second and third rounds very soon! Which picks so far are surprising to you?
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