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!
3.01 – Kalen Ballage, RB Arizona State
Jake’s thoughts: Ballage may be the most polarizing running back prospect I’ve ever seen. He impressed at the combine just like everyone expected him to. Coming in at 6’1″, 227 lbs; he is a freak. His lack of vision, cutting and contact balance is worrisome. Where he wins is running north/south and as an outstanding pass catcher. Some people think he should convert to wide receiver in the NFL. If he lands with a creative offensive coordinator, he has a safe floor as a receiving back who could get carries and be the ‘pounder’ in an RB committee. I love taking a shot on him in the third round.
My thoughts: I think Jake nailed it in his write up. Ballage is a unique talent, which isn’t always a good thing. I think Ballage is more like an undersized H-back than a running back. Given his pass catching skills, it is entirely possible that an NFL team could try to convert him to a tight end instead of a running back. If he stays as a running back, I think his ceiling will be fairly limited.
3.02 – Antonio Callaway, WR Florida
Adam’s thoughts: When you get into the third round of a 1QB, non-IDP rookie draft, it’s time to start looking for dart throws. While I do like some of the other players around this pick (Tre’Quan Smith, Dante Pettis, Allen Lazard, and Jaylen Samuels), Callaway is dripping with upside. His tape is impressive and at one time he was a top devy option at the receiver position. That all went off the rails with a series of off-the-field incidents that will need to be taken into account on draft day.
Without getting into those things, he is a very quick twitch athlete with great ball skills and excellent route ability. Off-field question marks aside, he could be a very good player in the NFL. If none of those things happened, he would likely be a first-round rookie receiver. If those things can stay away, he will be an absolute steal for the NFL and for dynasty owners looking to take a shot.
My thoughts: Callaway will be a very interesting draft day follow. If we are looking at only the receiver, I think he is a day two selection in the NFL draft. He is a little undersized, but he definitely flashes on the field. The issue comes down to lack of maturity and discipline. He has been criticized for lack of effort in the weight room and when watching film. If it was just that, then teams could probably look past it. However, there is so much more. The off the field transgressions for Callaway are pretty serious, including fraud, drugs, and sexual misconduct. NFL teams will definitely be taking a risk on him.
3.03 – Dallas Goedert, TE South Dakota State
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Michael’s thoughts: Picks like this one are why I love third-round rookie picks. While everyone is falling in love with Mike Gesicki, who went almost a full round higher in this mock, Goedert continues to impress me with his combination of production and athleticism. Coming out of a smaller school, Goedert will have a sizable transition into the NFL. In the late second/early third of rookie drafts, I’m more than willing to bet on his top ten upside at the position. I’d love to see him land in a spot like Dallas in the second or third rounds of the NFL draft.
My thoughts: Goedert is a great pick in the third round, if you are willing to be patient with his development. It would have been nice to get some numbers on him from the combine, but his games showed someone with good athletic ability and hands. Where he struggles is in his route running. He is extremely raw and will need a lot of work if he is going to fool NFL defenders. There is also the question of going from a small college to the NFL level at the tight end position, one of the hardest positions to make the transition to the pro level. He is definitely someone to watch.
3.04 – Tre’Quan Smith, WR Central Florida
Bruce’s thoughts: I like Smith. I think he should be going a little sooner in rookie drafts. He’s an excellent route runner who displays great hands at the catch point. I can see him moving up drafts boards if he gets selected by the right team.
My thoughts: A receiver with plus size and plus athleticism, Smith is a solid choice in the third round. He is far from a finished prospect, but a lot of his issues are the kinds of things that hard work and good coaching can cure. An NFL weight training program should help him get stronger while time and effort should improve his routes and focus during the catch. Smith is a great example of what you look for in the third round.
3.05 – Jaylen Samuels, RB/TE? North Carolina State
Nathan’s thoughts: Part of this pick is the upside play of the small chance that he ends up being put on MFL as a tight end. He was listed as a tight end at the combine but is listed as an RB on MFL. If he is given the TE designation, the amount of touches he will get as a runner and a pass catcher will be extremely valuable. Even if he does remain at RB, he has the skills to be a bye week/flex play in the right offense that figures out how to get him the ball.
My thoughts: I really don’t know what to make of Samuels. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the player without a position, because it never seems to work out in the NFL. Far too often, they are jacks-of-all-trades and masters of none. Which means they get to the NFL and can’t find a place. He is going to need a creative play-caller with a flexible offense to be productive. I don’t really see the perfect scenario falling into place. I think he is destined to be a better NFL player than a fantasy player.
3.06 – Lamar Jackson, QB Louisville
Anthony’s thoughts: In a 1QB format, I will always lean for the high upside QB. Middling QBs will be available but one with Lamar Jackson’s combination of passing and rushing potential is rare. He may take a year, or even two, to win his starting job but if given the reigns to an offense he has top-five fantasy QB potential. Jackson was able to amass over 5,000 yards from scrimmage his senior year in college. Last NFL season, of the top 15 fantasy QBs, seven of them had over 300 rushing yards.
My thoughts: I completely understand and agree with Anthony’s view given the traditional QB scoring system. Of course, I’m an advocate of overhauling scoring in 1QB leagues, but that is a whole different discussion! It is definitely going to be a bit of a roller coaster as we watch Jackson over the next few years. There are times when he looks like the best athlete in this entire draft class, but then there are also times where he looks like a high school quarterback. If he lands on the right team with a coaching staff willing to tailor things to his talents, we could have something special.
3.07 – Mark Andrews, TE Oklahoma
Joseph’s thoughts: The theme of taking who I consider the best player on the board continues here. Andrews is my favorite tight end in this class and tested well – just not at the same level as Mike Gesicki. Andrews is a terrific receiver and thrived along Baker Mayfield for the last three seasons. He can stretch the seam and threaten a defense downfield, and while his blocking isn’t horrific, it’s far from his best attribute. This means he may not see the field right away – but, if he does, it will be to act as a big slot receiver and because a team wants to maximize what he does best. Andrews is a mismatch for linebackers and safeties and I was very happy to see him fall to the back half of the third round.
My thoughts: I disagree a little bit with Joseph on this one. He mentioned that Andrews tested well, but I think he looked very average outside of the 40-yard dash. I was hoping for a little more athleticism given his lack of blocking skills. He has solid hands and a big frame, but he doesn’t play like his size. He gets pushed around far too much for a 6’5” pass catcher. I think he’s in a tough spot when it comes to his transition to the NFL. He isn’t athletic enough to be only a pass-catching tight end, and he has a long way to go when it comes to blocking. It could be a long wait for significant playing time for Andrews.
3.08 – Dante Pettis, WR Washington
Bobby’s thoughts: Dante Pettis didn’t participate in combine drills because he was hurt. That hasn’t changed the fact that I find him to be my favorite late round steal in drafts. The former Husky has been productive the past two seasons, despite the fact that he behind John Ross in the pecking order in 2016. I would have liked to see him do more his senior year, but still think he could make a nice complementary piece on an NFL team.
My thoughts: I was really hoping to get some numbers on Pettis at the combine because I’m torn on him. He has great hands and runs solid routes. He seems to have a good first step but at other points in time, he seems a little slower than I would hope. Is it simply a matter of the competition or something else? I don’t think he will ever be a top receiver in the NFL, but he could be a complementary receiver on an NFL team. What kind of ceiling that brings depends on Pettis’s athletic ability.
3.09 – Hayden Hurst, TE South Carolina
My thoughts: I was pretty happy that Hurst was still available at this point in the rookie mock. I know a lot of people in the dynasty community are pretty down on him due to age, but when we are talking about this point in the draft almost none of the players pan out. So if you have one with a significantly higher chance of success, even if it is for a shorter window, I’m all over it. I know he will be turning 25 due to a brief baseball career before college, but that still gives him a chance at a solid four-five years as an NFL tight end.
As a tight end, Hurst just might be the most complete prospect in this draft. He isn’t as athletic or as good of a pass catcher as some others, but when you mix blocking and everything else in there he might come out on top. He has great hands, runs good routes over the middle of the field, and he is dangerous after the catch for a man of his size. While he is a better-than-average blocker, there is still a little room to grow in that area. Some of his routes can also use a bit of refinement, but he should be able to step in and see playing time as a rookie.
3.10 – DaeSean Hamilton, WR Penn State
Doug’s thoughts: OK, confession time. I really like Penn State wide receivers. Don’t know why. I loved Allen Robinson coming out and loved Chris Godwin last year. This season, it’s Hamilton. He possesses similar skills to his predecessors. He’s not a burner, but is aggressive at the catch point and high points the ball very well. I was ecstatic to get him at the 3.10.
My thoughts: Hamilton completes the Penn state trifecta. They had Barkley go in round one of this mock, Gesicki in round two, and now Hamilton. Hamilton is a high character receiver who is likely to play the big slot receiver role on an NFL team. He isn’t overly athletic, but he is a highly reliable target. The question is how will that translate to the next level? Of the three receivers Doug mentioned, I think Hamilton is by far the least. However, with a little refinement, he could become productive in the NFL.
3.11 – Jordan Lasley, WR UCLA
Bradley’s thoughts: By far, this is the pick I was the most excited about. I had to decide between Josh Allen and Lasley but went with the latter as I had already taken Darnold. As Josh Rosen‘s number one target, Lasley has proved himself to be a future contributor at the NFL level. He’s had some drop issues but his ability to create separation with the fluidity in his routes and his burst off the line is really intriguing. His hand technique is actually pretty solid and I think he’ll overcome those drop issues as he gets into the prime of his career.
My thoughts: He is a great size/speed prospect. Unfortunately, he really struggles to catch the ball. That is kind of a big deal for a receiver! Maybe there is a technique or some other trick coaching can help, but my guess is the UCLA coaches definitely tried about everything they could. If he could fix the drop issue, we would be talking about someone who could push for a top 15 rookie pick this year. Instead, we are talking about a 16 percent drop rate and someone who is a third-round rookie selection.
3.12 – Baker Mayfield, QB Oklahoma
Richard’s thoughts: I felt fortunate that Baker fell to the end of the third round even though it was a 1QB favorite. Mayfield is my clubhouse favorite to immediately produce fantasy points of all the quarterbacks in this class. He performed well at the combine and looked comfortable with all of the QB drills. A few reaches allowed Mayfield to fall to the 3.12 and I will gladly throw a dart at a potential QB1/2 at this point in the draft.
My thoughts: The fourth quarterback off the board in this rookie mock, Mayfield is an interesting prospect. There have been all kinds of comparisons and even more news stories about who or what he is. Personally, I’m really excited to see what Mayfield can do at the next level. I think he is a bit of a wild card when it comes to his level of success, but in the late third, he makes for a solid upside play. I sure hope he pans out because he is going to be fun to watch!
There are our 36 selections. Keep in mind, a lot of things will change over the next few weeks and months. Don’t worry, I’ll be back several times to help keep track of those changes! Who are some players we didn’t mention that are on your radar?