Summer Rookie Mock Draft: Round One

Jacob Feldman

The long night has finally ended for football fans and training camps are underway! There was much rejoicing all across the land, and the trade markets in dynasty leagues far and near started to warm once again. This could very well be your last chance to buy that rookie at a discount before they blow up!

To help you get a feel for the current market, I grabbed 11 other writers and we sat down for another rookie mock. Keep in mind, this is just a snapshot of the current market. Your leagues could have a very different take on a player, so it never hurts to explore the market and see what you can get!

This mock was conducted just as training camps were opening up. That means any major news which comes out a week or two into camp is not accounted for in the drafting and comments below. For example, if Devin Funchess blows out his ACL in week two of training camp, that would obviously impact D.J. Moore. However, we didn’t know what at the time of drafting. I think you get the picture! For this mock, we assumed it was PPR scoring without any glaring team needs.

This is how things turned out.

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Top Two Picks

1.01 – Saquon Barkley, RB NYG

1.02 – Derrius Guice, RB WAS

These have been the top two picks in every single mock draft I’ve done since February. They were also the top two picks in every single one of my leagues this year with the exception of one superflex league (Guice went at 1.03 in that league). I think we can pretty much lock these two in.

Barkley is Barkley. I don’t even need to talk about him. As for Guice, he had a little hiccup around draft time with all of the whispers about who he is as a person and everything else that was going on, but reports out of camp that he could be more involved in the passing game than expected have helped him rebound.

I asked Jake Anderson, the writer who drafted Guice at 1.02 in this mock, for his thoughts on if Guice is the easy choice at 1.02 or not. Here is what he had to say: “Guice is still my lock 1.02 in rookie drafts. The fall to the back-end of the second round of the NFL Draft isn’t going to change my valuation of the player, especially since he landed in a plus situation.

“I’m a believer that Guice can catch 30-40 balls as a receiver out of the backfield despite the lack of production at LSU. Chris Thompson has the primary pass-catching role solidified for at least this year but I believe Guice has the skill set to chip into that and the potential to become a three-down back in the future.”

The Next Five

1.03 – Ronald Jones, RB TB

1.04 – Rashaad Penny, RB SEA

1.05 – Sony Michel, RB NE

1.06 – Nick Chubb, RB CLE

1.07 – D.J. Moore, WR CAR

I think these five players still make up the next five picks in just about all leagues and on almost all rankings. You might occasionally see someone else slip into this group on someone’s personal rankings, but it is going to be pretty rare. As for the order of these five, I’ve seen all of them as the 1.03 and all as the 1.07 at one point or another, which tells me this grouping is pretty close in value.

When it comes to the quartet of running backs, the opinions vary vastly depending on who you are talking to about them. Personally, I’m not much of a Penny guy, I’ve been burned many times by New England running backs, and I think Carlos Hyde is a very underrated player in most fantasy circles. All of that adds up to me having Jones as the top of this group by a pretty wide margin.

However, there are an awful lot of people who read the situations very differently. They will talk about Penny’s opportunity on a run-first team and his three-down skill set as reasons why he will lead the pack. Others will point to Michel as being the most complete and most explosive of the group as reasons why he should be the 1.03. There are a lot of different takes, so don’t expect those running backs to be valued in exactly that order in your leagues, and I can’t really fault anyone (though I might not agree with them) for having them in any order.

The most interesting player in this grouping in my eyes is Moore. Where does he and more importantly where should he mix in with this group of running backs has been one of the biggest questions of the off-season in my eyes. I have him right near the top of the group, swapping in and out with Jones in the 1.03 slot. I see someone with game-changing run-after-the-catch ability who has an affinity for getting open down the field as well. I think he’s going to be a back-end WR1 in fantasy leagues if the Panthers’ offense can stabilize a bit. However, there are a lot of people who are very comfortable with him where he landed in this mock – the 1.07 slot.

In order to get an additional perspective on Moore, I asked Levi Chappell to share some thoughts on his first round selection in the mock draft. “I will gladly take the number one WR in this class with the seventh pick. I absolutely love what I see from Moore, and it will not surprise me when he becomes Cam Newton‘s favorite target. I have Moore as my fourth-fifth rookie – because it is an absolute toss-up with Penny and Moore for me. Penny may have the higher ceiling, but Moore definitely has a higher floor.

“I was really hoping not to get stuck with a couple of RBs who I don’t like as much as Moore at the seventh pick, and it worked out really well for me. Moore is explosive enough to beat coverage over the top, and reminds me a bit of Golden Tate and Steve Smith once he has the ball in his hands. Its a very neat combination to watch and I think he will creep inside the dynasty top 30-40 within two years.”

Rest of the First Round

1.08 – Royce Freeman, RB DEN

1.09 – Christian Kirk, WR ARI

1.10 – Kerryon Johnson, RB DET

1.11 – Calvin Ridley, WR ATL

1.12 – Anthony Miller, WR CHI

The latter part of the first round has been very consistent when it comes to the positional breakdown since the draft. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a tight end or quarterback in the 1.08-1.12 picks outside of a superflex league. I’ve also only seen the same two running backs each and every time in Freeman and Johnson. Occasionally, one of them might jump up and replace someone like Chubb in the top part of the round, but even that seems to be fairly rare these days. The one thing which does seem to change is which receivers and in what order do they appear in the back part of the first round. Before I get to them, let’s dive into the running backs just a bit.

Between Freeman and Johnson, I think most people have Freeman leading the way. C.J. Anderson no longer wearing the orange and blue of the Broncos definitely helps Freeman’s chances of earning the starting role. The summer reports have been that it will be an open competition and everyone seems to be on a fairly equal footing. While this could turn into the dreaded “hot hand” approach, many are giving the nod to Freeman given the draft capital they invested in him.

Personally, I think it will turn into a committee with Freeman getting most of the early-down work before coming off the field in obvious passing situations. This is mostly due to his lack of pass protection skills at this point in his career. This could limit him to back end RB2 level in fantasy leagues for the near future.

When it comes to Johnson, much has been made about the team that drafted him. We have all heard about the Lions’ woes when it comes to the running game. When the last running back to rush for over 100 yards in a game for your franchise was Reggie Bush, you know it has been a rough few years.

Jeff Haverlack shared his thoughts on his selection: “There’s a lot to like about Kerry Johnson. 2018 was as loaded a running back class as we’ve ever seen and Johnson has been falling to the late first round. He possesses great three-down size at 6’, 213 pounds and he’s certain to add more strength in the NFL. Johnson has great first-step acceleration through the line of scrimmage to go along with the ability to turn the corner. Mix in some elite lower-leg explosion, as exemplified by his 40” vertical jump, and you have an athlete.

“On the negative side, like many rookies, he runs rather high and he’s not overly elusive through the hips. There are a lot of bodies at running back within the depth chart so drafting coaches will need to exhibit patience while waiting for Johnson to get his chance, but I believe Johnson is the back to end the drought in Detroit.”

With the receivers going in the first round, once you get past Moore, things really open up. I’ve seen five different receivers drafted and ranked as the WR2 in this draft class, so much like the four running backs who went 1.03-1.06 in this mock, their values are somewhat interchangeable. I have Ridley, Sutton, Miller, and Kirk all very close to each other in my personal rankings with Ridley leading the way.

I don’t think Ridley has the highest ceiling of the group, but I do think he has an extremely high floor. If you look back to the 2014 Falcons, the year Julio Jones became a superstar, you see Roddy White posting a very respectable 80-921-7 line opposite from him. If you look at last year, you see Mohamed Sanu with a 67-703-5 line. Ridley can be better than Sanu, and while he might not be Roddy White in his prime, he can be the 2014 version of White if not a little better. That’s pretty solid production, and I’ll take that all day long from a late first round pick.

Kirk came off the board a few picks before Ridley in this mock, and I was actually a bit surprised by that. I’ve seen Kirk more commonly in the very early second round than the later first, so I asked the one and only George Kritikos to shed some light on the selection. He said: “I’m very uncertain on the wide receivers in this class and have the top four very closely ranked. With Kirk, I see an investment in the passing offense with Josh Rosen and Kirk and little else in terms of young receiving options. Kirk was a prolific college option capable of playing outside and in the slot with good hands and deceptive speed. He could become a PPR nightmare over the next few years as Larry Fitzgerald winds down his career.”

The final pick of the round was Miller, a player who seems to keep rising and rising as the off-season moves on. In the post-Combine mock draft, he was taken with the 2.10 pick. As soon as the Bears drafted him, he jumped up to the first half of the second round. More recently he has been creeping up to the very early second or tail end of the first round territory. As a Bears fan, I really hope all the hype is for real. He’ll definitely see the field early and often given the lack of other options at the position.

One of our favorite Englishmen, Tommy Kislingbury, shared a few quick thoughts on Miller: “I like Miller a lot and it’s great to see him getting so much camp hype. Miller is in a tier with Christian Kirk, Michael Gallup and James Washington. In most of my drafts when given the choice of those I’ve been favoring Kirk, but they’re all very close and I was happy to grab Miller here.”

That’s it for the first round recap. I’ll be back soon with the other rounds.


jacob feldman