While the NFL playoffs are just getting started, NFL Draft season is already underway. At least, that is the case for draftniks and dynasty players who can’t wait to get their hands on the hot new batch of incoming players. This year is the same as past years, except with the hype and expectations of these young players multiplied tenfold.
Over the coming weeks and months, a multitude of NFL mock drafts will be released and while hitting on even a small percentage of the picks can be viewed as a success, these mocks give fans something to think about and if nothing else, are an enjoyable way to pass the time.
One of my favorite mocks to check out comes from Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller. Once the season wraps, he drops his first full seven round NFL mock draft. I can’t imagine the work that goes into that thing!
As I have done in the past, I’ll borrow from Matt’s work with the idea that his projections will come true and use that information to create a dynasty rookie mock draft.
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1.01 – Dalvin Cook, RB Florida State
Round 1, Pick 15
With other running backs slightly disappointing this season, Florida State star Dalvin Cook has flourished, including a dominating bowl game performance, which has elevated him to being the favorite to be the top rookie pick off the board in dynasty drafts. Despite having some pieces, the Colts offense has struggled. While old man Frank Gore has been a rock for that team and hit the 1,000 yard mark this season, they obviously need a replacement sooner rather than later. With defenses focusing on the passing game including Andrew Luck, TY Hilton and Donte Moncrief, Cook could be a dominant player from the start.
1.02 – Leonard Fournette, RB Louisiana State
Round 1, Pick 8
It was a rough season for the Tigers of LSU, especially on the offensive side. Multiple upset losses early in the season led to a coaching change and the passing game never really got going. The team was led by a pair of uber-talented running backs, Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice. While Fournette battled injuries all season long and ended his career by opting to sit out of the team’s bowl game, Guice answered the call and looked like one of the best runners in the country. Fournette still has a lot going for him, but some of the hype that once surrounded him has certainly died down. Landing in Carolina would be beneficial for Fournette as they are not viewed as a rebuilding team despite a poor season this year. Current starter Jonathan Stewart finally lived up to expectations a few years too late during the 2015 season, but injuries again caught up to him and cost him multiple games.
1.03 – Corey Davis, WR Western Michigan
Round 1, Pick 14
Just as with the top two running backs, it can be difficult to separate the first couple of receivers expected to be selected. The choice could be greatly impacted by the team that selects them, or their respective draft position. Corey Davis, the small school stud, has a couple of things going for him, though they are nothing more than tie-breakers in this close call. Davis is both younger and has a cleaner medical report than his counterpart. Davis has put up huge numbers, even when getting a chance to face power five schools and he could immediately be viewed as the top pass-catcher for the Eagles, who are in desperate need for help at the receiver spot.
1.04 – Mike Williams, WR Clemson
Round 1, Pick 5
It has been a banner year for Clemson receiver Mike Williams, who missed nearly the entire 2015 season with a neck injury. Many expected Williams to leave college early following that season, but the injury changed that. Williams came back better than ever and his devy stock actually increased. As I said, along with Davis, Williams forms a solid top pair of wideouts and these two could flip flop routinely in rookie drafts. The Titans surprised many with their offense this season, but still have a need at wideout and Williams could be the top target for quarterback Marcus Mariota for many years going forward.
1.05 – Christian McCaffrey, RB Stanford
New York Jets
Round 2, Pick 38
After a Heisman worthy season in 2015, the numbers dipped for Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey. To be fair, it was a tall task after posting over 2,600 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns as a sophomore. McCaffrey did actually increase his scoring production, totaling 16 trips to the end zone in his final college season. He can do a little bit of everything, as he is an excellent receiver and return man. This flexibility in his game should almost ensure him of an early role in an NFL offense. The Jets were disappointing this season, though both veteran running backs Matt Forte and Bilal Powell enjoyed some success. Both players are likely tied to the team for another year thanks to player-friendly contracts, so we could be looking at a three-way committee attack if McCaffrey lands in New York.
1.06 – Juju Smith-Schuster, WR Southern California
Round 3, Pick 67
It was an up and down season for Southern Cal receiver Juju Smith-Schuster, but he and the Trojans have been riding a hot streak after the early season change at the quarterback spot. Once viewed as a potential top overall dynasty rookie picks, but his stock has cooled a bit. Viewed as more of a possession receiver rather than an elite athlete, Smith-Schuster may not make the immediate impact many had hope. I’m not really sure how I fell about the former USC star landing in Chicago. While he would have the chance to be the top option in the pass offense if Alshon Jeffery bolts as a free agent, that Bears team has a lot of holes, specifically at the quarterback spot.
1.07 – Alvin Kamara, RB Tennessee
Round 3, Pick 78
One player I can see quickly rising up the board this off-season is former Tennessee and Alabama running back Alvin Kamara and landing a potential lead back role in Minnesota would only further support that jump. Kamara’s two season with the Vols were nearly identical as he gained 989 and 988 yards from scrimmage, respectively. Kamara especially shined once his former backfield-mate Jalen Hurd quit the team late in the season. The Vikings had the worst rushing offense in the league this season, averaging just over 75 yards per game. The loss of Adrian Peterson for much of the season left the backfield to Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata and neither are suited to be an every-down back in the league. If Peterson and the Vikings part ways, as expected, a rookie like Kamara would play a huge role from day one.
1.08 – John Ross, WR Washington
San Francisco 49ers
Round 2, Pick 34
Washington speedster John Ross came out of nowhere this season to put his name on the map. After missing the entire 2015 season with an injury, Ross formed a potent duo alongside sophomore quarterback Jake Browning as the Huskies marched into the playoffs. Ross more than doubled his career production, catching 81 passes for 1,150 yards and 17 touchdowns. Ross has been a fast riser all season, being projected as highly as a first round NFL draft pick, but some recent injury news could change things. Much like Smith-Schuster in Chicago, Ross could be the 49ers top target, but with uncertainty at quarterback, is that role enough?
1.09 – D’Onta Foreman, RB Texas
Round 2, Pick 44
Another major breakout player this season is Texas running back D’Onta Foreman, who led the nation with over 2,000 rushing yards. While the Longhorns offense couldn’t match up with most opponents, Foreman was a dominant weekly factor. There is some concern that Foreman’s lack of skills in the passing game could limit his role in an NFL offense and/or his weekly scoring upside in PPR leagues. The Eagles offense is in transition and while it is clear that head coach Doug Pederson wants to be a run heavy offense, the team couldn’t do that this year. Injuries to Ryan Mathews left the Eagles to roll out pass-catching specialist Darren Sproles as a lead back, along with rookie Wendell Smallwood, who flashed some ability, but didn’t see a consistent opportunity throughout the season. Foreman could be the bulky side of a solid committee attack.
1.10 – Wayne Gallman, RB Clemson
Round 3, Pick 81
The running backs continue to roll off the board as we look at Clemson back Wayne Gallman, the underrated do it all runner. With defenses focusing on attempting to stop quarterback Deshaun Watson and receiver Mike Williams, Gallman took advantage of some big holes. Like many of the top juniors, Gallman’s production dipped from an amazing sophomore season. After totaling over 1,700 yards from scrimmage in 2015, he totaled exactly 1,200 yards this season, increasing his touchdown numbers to 16 total. The Redskins are another team that are certain to add a rookie back after second-year man Matt Jones flopped and rookie surprised Rob Kelley slowed down as the season went along. The rookie back drafted by the Skins should be a top target from dynasty owners with an immediate opportunity for playing time.
1.11 – Dede Westbrook, WR Oklahoma
Round 3, Pick 80
The Oklahoma Sooners had one of the most explosive offenses in the country and it was senior wide receiver Dede Westbrook keying much of that. After a solid junior season, his first with Oklahoma, Westbrook was much better in 2016, leading to him and teammate Baker Mayfield being named finalists for the Heisman Trophy. Westbrook finished the season with 80 receptions for over 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns. Like most prospects, now is the time his past will be explored deeper than ever before and it was recently reported that Westbrook has had some off-field issues before his time at Oklahoma. This may or may not be a concern for NFL teams and dynasty owners, but it is a piece of the puzzle. The Ravens are losing veteran Steve Smith to retirement and it seems they are not sure what they have in former early draft pick Breshad Perriman.
1.12 – OJ Howard, TE Alabama
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Round 1, Pick 19
The off-season circus is usually not kind to NFL prospects as their off-field past is scrutinized and their on-field play is picked apart. That hasn’t been the case for Alabama tight end OJ Howard, the star of the team National Championship win a season ago. In recent days, Howard has been called a future All-Pro by one source and another drew comparisons between him and Seattle star Jimmy Graham. Typically, I wouldn’t suggest selecting a tight end in the first round of dynasty drafts, but a first round NFL Draft pick in a young, up and coming offense could be an exception. After the Bucs dumped disappointment Austin Seferian-Jenkins, their plan B was Cameron Brate, who was one of the surprises of the season. Even with Brate around, Howard should have a key role early on and could be an option for dynasty owners late in the first round.