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!
If you missed the first round, you can find it here.
2.01 – John Kelly, RB Tennessee
Jake’s thoughts: John Kelly’s combine was a bit disappointing. I didn’t expect him to impress all that much athletically. John Kelly wins with his contact balance and physicality and though he’s not a big back, he lays the thunder to defensive players. I’m all about people holding his combine against him so I can get him at a discount in rookie drafts.
My thoughts: I was a little surprised to see Kelly go at this point in the mock draft. I didn’t have him this high prior to the combine, and I don’t think he did himself any favors with his performance. Kelly’s game is all about power. He is a straight-ahead rusher who lacks agility and quickness. Typically, players like this become short-yardage specialists in the best case or they really struggle with the transition to the NFL due to bigger and stronger defenders. Either way, it isn’t great news for Kelly in my opinion.
2.02 – Equanimeous St. Brown, WR Notre Dame
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Adam’s thoughts: Apparently I am firmly on team #TallWR and that’s just fine with me. ESB had a fantastic Combine for his size and if you watch a decent amount of his tape, you see a receiver who struggled with a similar thing many of this class did; horrible QB play. More often than any player or coach would like, St. Brown was wide open and Brandon Wimbush (or whoever was in) threw it to a covered man. When ESB did have the ball in his hands, his 4.48 speed at 6’4″ 214 lbs was very apparent. While he profiles as a WR1, he struggles with the same things that my other choice, Courtland Sutton, also struggles with: route running and effort level. I see a player who can grow into a dominant force in the league and compared to the players selected around him. He has the most upside.
My thoughts: St. Brown is an intriguing prospect. Physically, it all seems to be there. He has great size and the speed to go with it. If everything goes according to plan, he could definitely turn into a WR1 in the not too distant future. However, that is only the best case. There are some questions about him. To me, he reminds me a bit of Dorial Green-Beckham without the legal issues. He is a very raw prospect who has won in college due to superior talent. He is far from a complete receiver, and as a result, his tape doesn’t always mesh with his physical abilities. His effort is also a little bit questionable at times. He is a high risk, high reward pick, but in the second round, you might as well give it a shot!
2.03 – Michael Gallup, WR Colorado State
Michael’s thoughts: Gallup was actually in my top 12 overall before the combine, and he represents the bottom of a tier for me here at pick #15. With an elite production profile and average athleticism, Gallup represents an ideal target in the second round of rookie drafts. He plays well to his 6’1″ frame and does a really good job catching the ball in traffic. He’s still definitely a raw prospect, but he has a lot of room to improve, and I’m hoping he lands with a team that is in need of a WR2, such as the Atlanta Falcons.
My thoughts: Gallup is a gifted athlete; it is hard to deny that. However, he is much more athlete than receiver at this point in time. Ultimately, which team drafts him will determine if he is an early second round rookie selection or a later pick. I think he is going to be a multi-year project for whoever drafts him, but the potential for him to be a high-end number two target on an NFL team is definitely there. If you have larger rosters or taxi squads, he is a very good choice. If you have smaller rosters, you need to look elsewhere.
2.04 – Mike Gesicki, TE Penn State
Bruce’s thoughts: Gesicki blew the doors off the combine with his athleticism. From day one, he will be one of the most athletic tight ends in the league. Going in, he was already considered one of the top tight end prospects in this draft class. His workout numbers cemented him as a very intriguing pick in dynasty. Once you start getting into the middle of the second round, talent starts to fall off. I’m not a fan of selecting tight ends early in rookie drafts, but in this stage of the draft, Gesicki starts to become a value.
My thoughts: Gesicki is going to be one of the hottest names after the combine. Considering what his college teammate Saquon Barkley did at the combine, people might start looking a little bit closer at what Penn State is doing! Gesicki definitely isn’t a complete tight end. His frame is slim for the position, and his blocking skills are almost non-existent. However, his athleticism is off the charts, and he can challenge defenses in a way that at the position can ever hope to do. His ceiling is what Jimmy Graham was able to do with the Saints, but it is going to take an offensive coordinator who is willing to design a scheme around getting him free down the seam and not asking him to block.
2.05 – Deon Cain, WR Clemson
Nathan’s thoughts: The 6’2″, 202-pound wide receiver had to have a good showing at the combine to help compensate for his lack of a big season with under 800 receiving yards in each college season. Cain was a good deep threat in his first two years of college, averaging 19.1 and 17.1 yards per catch in each. His 4.43 40-yard dash helped show why he was that big play threat at Clemson.
My thoughts: Nathan must really like the big play receivers after taking James Washington in the first round. Cain is a very interesting prospect. He has the measurables people look for in a receiver, but the production just doesn’t match. In fact, Cain has shown some regression over the years and hasn’t taken the normal steps forward that we expect with age and an expanding role. He could be a diamond in the rough, but these could also be some pretty big warning signs. He is someone worth looking into a little bit more.
2.06 – DJ Chark, WR LSU
Anthony’s thoughts: Chark is likely a player who will be helped by his draft slot. His blazing 4.3 40-yard dash time coupled with a mediocre WR class should land him in the top three rounds of the draft. From day one, Chark can provide a deep threat from the outside, similar to what Will Fuller and Robby Anderson have provided the last few seasons. Chark suffered from poor QB play within the rush-heavy LSU offense but was still able to average over 20 yards per catch.
My thoughts: Chark has been and will likely continue to be one of the biggest risers in this draft process. After lighting up the senior bowl and the combine, he just keeps climbing higher and higher. LSU’s system is not ‘wide receiver friendly’ for production, so he flew under the radar. However, he is now getting a chance to show some glimpses into what he could be at the next level. I think he has the upside to be a very good complementary receiver in the NFL, which could have him on the high-end WR3 radar if he lands on a good offense. He is going to be a very popular second-round selection.
2.07 – Kerryon Johnson, RB Auburn
Joseph’s thoughts: Johnson was sneaking into the first round of some rookie mocks before the combine, so I was surprised to see him still on the board at 2.07. Johnson didn’t run the 40 but had very explosive jumps for his size. He’s not the greatest athlete, but that’s not how he wins. With a true three-down skill set, Johnson utilizes patience and varies his stride length and game speed to wait for his blocking to develop and burst through holes at the line of scrimmage.
He’s a better pass catcher than people give him credit for, and he’s capable of handling monster workloads – as seen by his game logs after teammate Kamryn Pettway went down with an injury. Daniel Jeremiah said Johnson reminded him of Le’Veon Bell, and while that’s lofty praise, they have noticeable similarities in their games. That’s the type of player I like to take a chance on at this stage in the draft.
My thoughts: Personally, I think Johnson should have gone before Kelly, but I do feel that both are second-round picks. Johnson probably more in the early middle while Kelly a little later. Anyway, while I agree with Joseph that Johnson does have a three-down skill set, I don’t see anything super special about him. He does have very nice burst and acceleration, but his top-end speed, as well as vision and instincts, are a little bit questionable in my eyes. With smaller windows in the NFL, this could be a bit of a problem. However, at this point in the draft, he is well worth a shot.
2.08 – Josh Rosen, QB UCLA
Bobby’s thoughts: Josh Rosen is easily the top of the quarterback class for me. I love his mechanics on all his throws. I realize he’s not exactly Mr. mobility, but I’ve always somewhat tended towards pocket passers anyway. It may have been a reach for a quarterback but at this point in the draft, I really didn’t love the rest of the class anyway.
My thoughts: Quarterback is going to be a very interesting position in this year’s draft, not only in the NFL but also in fantasy drafts. Until the NFL makes its decisions and we know which teams the quarterbacks are going to be on, it is really tough to know how to rank them. Once everything is said and done, I would expect the first quarterback to go around this point in time. Rosen is likely to be one of the safer choices at the position, but his ceiling isn’t as high as some of the others. I think he’s likely to be a low-end QB1 in a few years.
2.09 – Mark Walton, RB Miami
My thoughts: In the interest of full disclosure, I set my pre-draft list around pick 2.02, and Walton was the last player I put on it. I was really hoping for someone like Chark or Johnson to fall this far. A few weeks ago, Chark definitely would have been here at this point. Anyway, Walton was last on my list because while I like him as a player, I believe his upside is a little bit limited.
I don’t think Walton will ever be a complete three-down rusher. Not only does he lack size and run strength, he has shown indecisiveness between the tackles and has an injury history. Where he excels is on the perimeter. He is quick to the edge, can make people miss in space, and is a very good pass catcher. I think he could easily move into a third-down role in the NFL and possibly have a shot at becoming someone like Chris Thompson or James White. He definitely has talent, it just isn’t a complete skill set.
2.10 – Anthony Miller, WR Memphis
Doug’s thoughts: Miller is a player I’ve grown to like as I’ve been studying defensive players for the upcoming draft (play IDP!). He’s solid and strong with a good catch radius. He only bench-pressed at the combine and didn’t run many, if any, positional drills. Unless he finds a tremendous landing spot, 2.10 is about where you can draft him.
My thoughts: Miller is slightly undersized, but he is one of the better deep ball receivers in this draft class. His film shows good speed, great ball tracking ability, and supreme body control. However, he is a little bit of a one-trick pony. He really struggles on the shorter and intermediate routes, because the finer points of his route running need some attention. He is a highly driven player, going from walk-on to team leader, so I think he will be willing to work at the next level. If he ends up on the right team, he could turn into a solid pro.
2.11 – Sam Darnold, QB USC
Bradley’s thoughts: Darnold is currently my QB2. I think he’s a rare signal caller with both a high floor and ceiling. His footwork needs some sharpening, but his mechanics and natural accuracy have me really excited about his NFL future. Playstyle-wise, I think he’ll look a lot like Case Keenum/Alex Smith. He won’t rely on a rocket arm but he’ll extend plays with his feet and make consistently accurate throws. Of my three picks, this is the one where I’m not sure if I got terrific value, but I still really like the selection.
My thoughts: I talked about my general philosophy on this year’s quarterback class with the Rosen selection a few picks ago. I have Darnold ahead of Rosen in my rankings. They are both similar in the high floor category, but Darnold has the bigger ceiling thanks to his mobility and ability to deal with the blitz. I think he has some work to do with his release and mechanics, but that should be something he can work out over the years. I think he is likely to be the top quarterback drafted in the NFL, and while I don’t know if he’ll ever be elite, he could be a very good quarterback for a decade.
2.12 – Auden Tate, WR Florida State
Richard’s thoughts: At 2.12, I was making an upside play with Auden Tate. His college production was lacking but he did show major red-zone presence with 16 career touchdowns over the past two seasons (65 receptions). Tate has great size at 6’5″ and 228 pounds but he is lacking speed, only running a 4.68 in the forty. I selected him at the 2.12 solely on value because I feel that there is a clear tier drop after Tate.
My thoughts: I think Tate’s 40-yard dash time will definitely hurt him when it comes to the draft. There aren’t a whole lot of perimeter receivers in the NFL who run almost 4.7-second 40-yard dashes. When you combine that with the lack of production at the college level, I think he is going to fall to day three in the NFL draft. In the NFL, I think he is destined to be a situational receiver, mostly someone who works in the red zone.
Round two is now in the books with round three coming up soon! Which picks so far are surprising to you, and who did we miss on?
- Final 2021 Pre-Draft Rookie Mock: Round Three - April 28, 2021
- Final 2021 Pre-Draft Rookie Mock: Round Two - April 26, 2021
- Final 2021 Pre-Draft Rookie Mock: Round One - April 25, 2021