Post-Combine Rookie Mock Draft: Round One

Jacob Feldman

March has finally arrived, which means the start of the new NFL year. Free agency is just about to begin, and we were just treated to the NFL combine. Some rookies blew the doors off while others clearly left us wanting more. For a lot of people, the combine is the first real look at the 2018 class and the start of the formal pre-draft process.

The next few months will be filled with news reports and pro-days as well as a lot of speculation. It makes for an interesting time in the league. To help you navigate some of it, I was joined by 11 other DLF writers in a mock draft. I asked each of them to share some thoughts on their selections before I shared some thoughts of my own. Sometimes we agreed, sometimes we didn’t. Just like you are going to agree with some opinions and disagree with others.

For this mock, we did three rounds with twelve teams. We assumed PPR scoring and traditional lineups (so not a 2QB or superflex league). Keep in mind it is very early in the process. There are going to be opinions shared in this mock which will completely change in the next few weeks and months. There will be players selected in the top 36 who go undrafted in most rookie drafts this summer, and there might be some future first rounders we didn’t draft. It happens when you are doing things like this early, but that is a part of the fun. Enjoy!

1.01 – Saquon Barkley, RB Penn State

Jake’s thoughts: Saquon was locked into the 1.01 before the combine. Then, he destroyed it. His 4.40 40-yard dash was the second-best ever for a running back over 230 lbs. The 41” vertical seems like it’s going to be the best ever recorded for an RB over 230. His 4.24-second shuttle put him as the 12th-best since 2000. Oh yeah, he also put up 29 reps of 225.

Wow. Just wow. Barkley has made me feel better about having him as my RB2 in all of dynasty, and I recently took him at 1.05 in one of our most recent DLF startup mocks. His receiving skills and ability to run routes stamps the high floor and landing spot almost doesn’t even matter. He may be the best RB prospect we’ve ever seen.

My thoughts: While the hype and expectations might be getting a little bit out of control, especially when you consider he doesn’t even have a team yet, Barkley is about as close to a sure thing as we have seen in a long time. He has a complete skill set to go along with a special combination of size and athleticism. Regardless of his landing spot, I can’t come up with any reasonable explanation why he wouldn’t be the 1.01.

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1.02 – Courtland Sutton, WR SMU

Adam’s thoughts: Wait, that doesn’t say Derrius Guice! I wanted to start a conversation about Mr. Sutton and the state of the RB hype. It’s no secret that 2017 was the year of the rookie runners and we all want that to continue, but when I look at Sutton I see an easy WR1 in the league. He has perfect WR1 size and crushed the agility drills in the combine. Watching his tape you see a physical receiver who needs work on route running, but even with shoddy QB play and the “lowered competition”, he pops off the tape. Knowing this is dynasty and my team has no glaring needs, taking the potential best WR in the class is an easy pick.

My thoughts: It didn’t take long for the first curveball of this mock draft to show up. Most people, including me, are pretty much locking Barkley and Guice into slots one and two, then letting things get crazy at three. Sutton going one pick earlier at two is going to raise a lot of questions. I think Adam did a pretty good job of explaining his thoughts, regardless of if you agree with them. Sutton does have huge upside given his physical size and athleticism, but he is a ways away from being a WR1 right now. Spending the 1.02 draft pick on him instead of Guice is a bit of a risk. My guess is Adam would have traded back if this were a real draft.

1.03 – Nick Chubb, RB Georgia

Michael’s thoughts: To be completely honest, I put Chubb on my MFL draft list to speed things along 100% assuming Guice would go at 1.02. That being said, Chubb is absolutely my 1.03 post-combine. He tested at a 98% SPARQ and this was my main concern with him and his explosiveness after his knee injury. I think he’s more than just a two-down back and can develop as truly one of the 300-touch lead backs in the NFL. I’d be thrilled with him sitting at 1.03.

My thoughts: Even if Guice had gone at 1.03, I’m pretty sure Chubb would have gone very soon after. Out of all of the players at the combine, Chubb might have helped himself the most. Many were talking about how he might not even be the best running back prospect from Georgia. After the combine, and him showing off better than expected athleticism, I think most have him back on top. Not only did he show athleticism, but potentially, more importantly, he showed the ability to catch the ball. While the hands are likely a work in progress, he showed potential. That just might be enough for an NFL team.

1.04 – Derrius Guice, RB LSU

Bruce’s thoughts: This was an easy selection to make. I have Guice as the second-best prospect in this draft, behind Saquon Barkley. I was ecstatic when he fell to the fourth pick in this mock draft. He’s easily going to be a first-round pick in the NFL Draft and should see a sizeable workload next year. Guice is a very talented prospect, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he develops into a top-five back at the next level.

My thoughts: Guice was a very easy choice here, and I expect him to be the 1.02 selection in most rookie drafts. Guice has the build and athleticism to be a premier running back at the NFL level. Where he really impresses is with his yards after contact. He punishes defenders and keeps on going time and time again. The downside of this is that he tends to play to contact instead of making a move to pick up extra yards. This style also lends itself to an increased injury risk, which was evidenced by his 2017 season. He is going to be a lot of fun to watch on Sundays, I just hope he can stay on the field.

1.05 – James Washington, WR Oklahoma State

Nathan’s thoughts: He has the best production among wide receivers in this class. He may not be the first or second wide receiver off the board, but I think he is the one wide receiver in this class with true WR1 upside. He will be targeted early and often during his rookie season. His 4.54 speed along with his 20.2 yards per catch in college will make him a weapon at the next level.

My thoughts: With names like Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson, the Biletnikoff Award winner was almost a lock for a very highly-drafted prospect and top end production in the NFL for a number of years. In recent years, possibly due to changes in the college game, that hasn’t been the case. Washington might not even be a first-round pick in the NFL draft. Built like a running back, he is one of the best deep ball receivers in the class. However, he is also very unpolished at the position. He needs a lot of work on his routes and is a long way from being a complete receiver. Even without that, he is definitely a playmaker.

1.06 – Sony Michel, RB Georgia

Anthony’s thoughts: Michel’s combination of receiving skills, before and after the catch – along with his ability to break off long gains on inside runs – makes him an ideal NFL RB. Would love to see him go somewhere he could start off splitting time in a change of pace role and eventually grow into a full-time back. I love Michel’s floor as a prospect. I think even in the worst case scenario, Michel could be a major contributor in a similar role as Chris Thompson of the Redskins – solely a third down back who specializes in gaining yards after the catch.

My thoughts: When it comes to Michel, the most interesting part for me will be if he becomes a committee back or a full-time starter in the NFL. I’ve always viewed him as a player in the Chris Thompson role, like Anthony mentioned. He is very good in the open field, both in choosing his lanes and making defenders miss. Unfortunately for him, I think he is very average between the tackles and in small spaces. Maybe he will prove me wrong in the NFL, but I don’t envision him as a full-time starter. Then again, Alvin Kamara isn’t a full-time starter either.

1.07 – Ronald Jones, RB USC

Joseph’s thoughts: Before the combine, Jones was being discussed by some as a better running back than Derrius Guice, who was the consensus 1.02 in all ten of DLF’s March rookie mock drafts. Jones pulled his hamstring running his 40, so we weren’t able to see him show off arguably his best trait, but his athleticism didn’t disappear – we just weren’t able to see it on a well-publicized stage.

Recency bias will push Jones down the board, and I’d be thrilled to get him here. Being compared to Jamaal Charles by some, Jones plays larger than his 205-pound size. He didn’t catch many passes at USC, but I don’t think that means he can’t develop into an adequate receiver. His frame may keep him from being drafted into a workhorse role, but he’s talented enough to handle 15 or more touches a game.

My thoughts: Pre-Combine, I had Jones neck and neck with Chubb for the RB3 slot in this draft. I’m hoping that his injury might push him down draft boards a little bit, and I might have a shot at him in the later first round. I think he has a ton of potential as a complete rusher with some of the best cuts and moves in the draft class. He could use a little polish on some of the finer points of playing the position, but I think that will come with experience. If he starts sliding this far in rookie drafts, it might be time for me to trade up a bit to grab him!

1.08 – Rashaad Penny, RB San Diego State

Bobby’s thoughts: I had Rashaad Penny as a first round dynasty talent even before the combine. He was one of two college running backs to put up over 2,000 rushing yards, and yeah I’m aware that it came against lesser competition. Then he came out and ran a 4.46! I am very high on this young man. The only other player I was considering with this pick was DJ Moore, who I was surprised to see go three picks after.

My thoughts: Every year we are forced to try to answer the question: “How much does the level of competition matter?” There always seems to be a high-level prospect or two with great numbers against lesser competition. Corey Davis and Cooper Kupp are examples from last year. Penny is one of those players this year. Highly productive and having ideal size for the position, there is a lot to like about Penny. His numbers at the combine showed off his long speed just like his kick returns did. My biggest concerns for him are his ability to make yards after contact, and his ability in the passing game. These things won’t get any easier as the level of competition rises. There are some risks here, but the potential rewards are pretty high as well.

1.09 – Calvin Ridley, WR Alabama

My thoughts: If Ridley is going to be available with the 1.09 draft pick in rookie drafts, I might need to reconsider dealing my late first round draft picks! I know his combine was rather underwhelming, but Dalvin Cook and Antonio Brown also had terrible combines. I think the market will correct itself a little bit, and Ridley will end up being a top half of the first round rookie selection in fantasy leagues. After all, there is a reason the vast majority of places have him as a top two if not the top receiver in this year’s draft class.

It doesn’t take much to realize that Ridley has great hands, phenomenal game speed, elite body control, and an ability to create separation which is second to none. His production was a bit limited when compared to some of the other top prospects at the position, but you need to keep the system in mind. Alabama isn’t exactly known for strong quarterback play and airing the ball out. With all of that said, Ridley isn’t a perfect prospect by any means. Most notably, he is a little undersized. He lacks strength, which poses issues with both press coverage and in contested situations. It will be interesting to see if he is used from the slot or out wide in the NFL.

1.10 – Christian Kirk, WR Texas A&M

Doug’s thoughts: I’ve always liked Kirk. He’s a good route-runner and an excellent punt returner. If you believe the Packers GM, he values punt return skills in his wideouts because once the play is in progress they are basically punt returns. He turned a more than respectable 4.47 40-yard dash at the combine. At the 1.10 I was very pleased to land him. I was considering combine star DJ Moore at this point as well.

My thoughts: I was hoping for just a little bit more from Kirk at the combine. If he had put up a top time in the shuttle or three-cone drill, he might have pushed for top three at the position. As it stands now, I think he is going to be fighting for a top-five spot at the position, and he is likely a fringe first rounder in rookie drafts. I believe he is destined for a slot receiver role in the NFL, but I question if he will be able to be one of the truly special ones. I think he just might be one of the above average ones, which makes him more of a WR4.

1.11 – DJ Moore, WR Maryland

Bradley’s thoughts: After lighting up the combine, Moore is a guy I expect to go in the 1.07-1.10 range, so I was pretty happy to see him there at 11. Currently my WR3, Moore should be an immediate impact player with his crafty route running skills, solid hands, and well above average athleticism. I know picking a guy from the same school is a little cheesy, but nonetheless, my player comp for Moore is Stefon Diggs.

My thoughts: Moore showed off his athletic ability at the combine, and it made him a lock to be a top-three receiver in my book. I have him ahead of Washington for that honor. He is huge after the catch, and if you watch some of his film it is hard to miss how dangerous he is with the ball in his hands. What he does lack are the finer points of the position. His route running needs some work as does his ability to work against the defenders. He seems to lack some of the “feel” for the position which results in his body being slightly out of position at times or in a completely different place than where the quarterback expected him. Hopefully, these are things which can be fixed. If they are, with the right coaching, he could turn into a big-time NFL player.

1.12 – Royce Freeman, RB Oregon

Richard’s thoughts: One of the most productive running backs in NCAA history, Freeman has produced over 1,000 all-purpose yards in all four of his collegiate seasons. He is proven that he can handle a huge workload, and he ran a 4.54 forty which is very impressive considering his 6’0″ 230-pound frame. Freeman also has shown the ability to be an every-down back, hauling in 74 passes in his career. Lost in the shuffle amongst this loaded RB class, Royce Freeman was the best (and my favorite) value on the board at 1.12.

My thoughts: Freeman made himself an awful lot of money at the combine by running a 4.54 time in the 40-yard dash. The time doesn’t seem like much, but when you mix in his size and production, it is huge for his draft stock. I think he is going to continue to rise up boards, and I think he will be a favorite of the dynasty community. If he goes to a top landing spot in the NFL draft, he could rise up even higher into the first round. He isn’t quite as dynamic as some of the other running backs in this round, but he is definitely someone to watch with his size, speed, and three-down skill set.

That’s it for round one. We will be back with the second and third rounds over the next few days! Which picks so far are surprising to you, and who did we miss on?


jacob feldman