We’re going to try something a little new over here at the Dr’s Office, with a once-a-week mock draft and review. Each week we’ll draft from a different position in the draft and take a look at each major draft strategy to give you an idea of what to expect on draft day.
With two 10 team Mock drafts under out belt, we’re going to expand our sights today to 12 team leagues. These drafts require a great deal more focus on those middle rounds, and we’ll be the first to admit that our data at this point is lacking. As we get closer to the season, we’ll revisit each of these and compare our findings. In an effort to give a variety of strategies, we randomly generated our draft spot and will be selecting 10 of 12.
1.10 – David Johnson, RB – Arizona Cardinals: With seven backs coming off the board, I’m surprised to see David Johnson sitting here. I understand the concerns remained after Johnson failed to return to his pre-injury form in 2018, but he’s still one of the safest first round backs thanks to guaranteed volume. I considered going with Davante Adams here to secure a top 3 WR, but I’m willing to roll the dice on who comes back around to me to ensure I’m starting with a potential top 5 player.
2.3 – Juju Smith-Schuster, WR – Pittsburgh Steelers: You could argue taking a second running back here is the wise move, especially given the larger pool of impact receivers, but in a twelve team league I’d rather have balance than risk it. Davante Adams and Michael Thomas went just before my pick, but I’m pleased to see Juju on the board here. With Antonio Brown vacating a large number of targets, and Smith-Schuster becoming the most dynamic play maker in that Steeler’s offense, and I’m confident that he’ll contribute consistently, and at a WR1 level most weeks.
3.10 – Stefon Diggs, WR – Minnesota Vikings: I do like a few of the names at the top of the RB list, most notable Marlon Mack and Aaron Jones, but the current tier of receivers leaves a lot to be desired. With that in mind, I see Diggs as the lone name left with the potential to really put up WR1 numbers. After all, his floor is the 100 catch, 1,000 yard, 6-8 TD range, and compared to the potential for disappointment with available players like Amari Cooper and Robert Woods, I’m comfortable with Diggs as my WR2.
4.3 – Kerryon Johnson, RB – Detroit Lions: Not given a fair shake until he put 100 yards up on the Patriots on September 23rd, Johnson quietly averaged over 70 yards per game to go with 24 receptions and 170 yards in the passing game during the stretch of games following before being shut down in week 11 of the season. With the Lions likely to commit a good portion of the backfield to Kerryon in 2019, I’m more than comfortable with his floor to add him as a solid RB2.
5.10 – Mike Williams, WR – Los Angeles Chargers: If you’re overly concerned about bye weeks, then this pick may look sketchy to you, but my goal is to assemble the best roster I can regardless of bye weeks, and work around them as the season progresses. With Mike Williams, I get a player who’s got the pedigree and skill set to be an elite receiver in this league, and while he’s a very solid WR3 while Keenan Allen is on the field, he becomes a coveted player if (when) Allen gets dinged up.
6.3 – Kenyan Drake, RB – Miami Dolphins: It was inexplicable the way Adam Gase refused to let shoulder the load last season in Miami, and with both Gase and Frank Gore gone, I see Drake as the undisputed top back in this offense. With excellent open field skills, above average pass catching skills, and the inside track for all three downs, I don’t expect Drake to be overlooked in the Brian Flores/Chad O’Shea coached Miami Dolphins offense.
7.10 – Sterling Shepard, WR – New York Giants: I’m reaching the point where I need to begin considering a QB, but with Shepard available, I can see a player who’s got an excellent chance to eat up many of Odell Beckham’s abandoned targets. Of course, with Eli Manning, you never really know how the offense is going to run, but with a little better protection, and an offense that runs through Saquon Barkley, Shepard is a low risk WR1 who could see a large number of targets in 2019.
8.03 – Jameis Winston, QB – Tampa Bay Buccaneers: He’s had a tumultuous few seasons in the NFL, but there’s never been doubt surrounding his ability. Now he has a veteran coach with an excellent offensive mind in Bruce Arians, and no QB controversy to speak of as Ryan Fitzpatrick has traveled across the state to Miami. I could have waited on a QB, and I would have been okay with a Jared Goff or Dak Prescott several rounds from now, but Winston intrigues me this season, and I’m not sold on the skill position players available (David Njoku, Chris Carson, Lamar Miller, Keke Coutee, and Dede Westbrook are all at the top of their positions).
9.10 – Rashaad Penny, RB – Seattle Seahawks: Drafting a RB here is akin to taking a flyer, after all, names like Jerick McKinnon, Rashaad Penny, Latavius Murray, and Dion Lewis don’t exactly inspire confidence. What Penny offers, though, is the closest thing to a three down back out of the lot of them. Chris Carson has a nice season for Seattle, but the fact remains that the Seahawks invested a high pick in Penny for a reason, and it’d be insane if they didn’t give him an opportunity to take some of those snaps. With Mike Davis gone as well, he could siphon some of the goal line touches to make up for any time share split.
10.3 – Nyheim Hines, RB – Indianapolis Colts: I feel that Hines isn’t getting nearly the respect he deserves in PPR leagues this season. I do have a few wide outs I’m targeting in the late rounds, so going back to back on running backs feels like a safer investment. Similar to backs like James White and Tarik Cohen, Hines profiles as a third down specialist, and his 63 receptions as a rookie were eye opening. Andrew Luck is going to throw the ball a ton this year, and while Marlon Mack will occupy the early downs, Hines could see 100 targets, and in the third 10th round that’s a steal.
11.10 – Trey Burton, TE – Chicago Bears: Not only does Trey Burton fill a need, as I waited on TE as long as I felt comfortable, he also represents the last great value at the position. The reasons we expected him to break out last year are still present, with a coaching staff that’s had success with pass catching tight ends in the past, and an ascending offense with a young but improving QB, and I see no reason not to bet on Burton in 2019 as a sneaky top 7 TE.
12.03 – Adam Humprhies, WR – Tennessee Titans: There is no other team in the NFL that’s done less with it’s talent (in my opinion) than the Tennessee Titans over the last few years. Whether it’s the lack of health at the QB position, or the lack of depth at the WR position, there’s no denying that this offense never really seems to live up to the hype. This off season they added slick slot receiver Adam Humphries in an effort to diversify on offense, and give Mariota another excellent pass catching weapon. There’s always the chance he goes the way of Rishard Matthews, but the potential for 100 targets makes him a very good WR5 in my eyes.
13.10 – D’Onta Foreman, RB – Houston Texans: With plenty of distance between now and his season ending Achilles injury, I expect Foreman to become a big part of Houston’s plans going forward. Lamar Miller has been a good soldier, grinding out success despite a lack of explosive ability, but his age and injury history leave the door wide open for Foreman to work into the offense. While there’s concern that the injury will limit him going forward, this is a low risk chance to steal a top 25 back late in the draft.
14.03 – Delanie Walker, TE – Tennessee Titans: I’ve got two wideouts on my radar that I expect to be there at the end of the draft, and with six backs on my roster, I’m looking to shore up the tight end position given that I don’t have an elite option on my roster. Delanie Walker is an injury risk every year, but if Burton goes down or fails to pan out, Walker is one of the best plan B’s one could hope for at the TE position.
15.10 – Mitch Trubisky, QB – Chicago Bears: Again, I’m comfortable waiting on my last bench receiver, and as I mentioned before, I think Mitch Trubisky is close to breaking out in his own right. In a ten team league I may punt on a second QB, but with so many hands in the pot, I’m cautious in the draft and would rather target my second QB in the draft rather than waiting on the waiver wire.
16.03 – J’Mon Moore, WR – Green Bay Packers: Of all the receivers Green Bay selected last year, Moore is probably the most talented. Still, he had issues last year with his routes and his hands, and will need to fix those issues if he’s going to take the next step. Still, the Packers believed in him enough to draft him ahead of both Equinemous St. Brown and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. As a final bench player, his leash won’t be long, but if he can put the pieces of the puzzle together, he can be a monster weapon in Aaron Rodgers arsenal.
17.10 – Greg Zuerlein, K – I stream defenses anyways, so the chance to get the top kicker makes too much sense.
18.03 – Cowboy’s D/ST: Again, I don’t over commit to a defense early, instead I’ll stream if Dallas doesn’t pop early.
- QB – Jameis Winston, Mitch Trubisky
- RB – David Johnson, Kerryon Johnson, Kenyan Drake, Rashaad Penny, Nyheim Hines, D’Onta Foreman
- WR – Juju Smith-Schuster, Stefon Diggs, Mike Williams, Sterling Shepard, Adam Humphries, J’Mon Moore
- TE – Trey Burton, Delanie Walker
As expected, our running back group is easily the weakest of the bunch, but I’m pleased with the diversity we have, especially given that this was a PPR format on the mock. With Johnson, Drake, and Hines all in line for 50-70 receptions, I can make this roster work even if both Penny and Foreman continue to fall short of their earlier expectations.
At the wide receiver position, we’re strong at the top, with the kind of depth that can cover up for any injuries or inconsistencies at the top. I love Shepard and Humphries as WR4 and WR5, and have plenty of ammo should I need to swing a trade for a RB later in the campaign.
Of course, I could have skipped the back up QB and TE to add another RB and WR to the group, but as mentioned above, I like to pick my backups in 12 team formats rather than hoping they’re there on waivers when I need them. I love Trubisky as a backup QB, and there’s a chance he pushes into the back end of the QB1 range, further giving me trade bate as the season wears on.
As I mentioned before, it’s important to be flexible during your draft, and I had to walk a tight rope in this one to ensure I had enough guys to start while also snagging a few high upside sleepers in players like Foreman and Moore. While they’re the easiest to cut if someone flashes as a free agent, there’s a chance either one could be a big time contributor if the planets align.
It’s early in the off season, and these rankings will likely take on a different form as we approach the start of the NFL season, but in an effort to map the journey, we’ll take a few days to give you a look at the top of each position and who we think is rising and who we think is falling. If you’re looking for overall rankings, our initial rankings will be posted at the links in the header this week as well.
- DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans – The man they call “Nuke” has one of the most diverse skill sets in the league. He has the kind of speed / size combinations that defenses fear, and his ability to make difficult, timely catches, is second to none. Even double teamed, and with no name backups throwing him the ball, Hopkins is consistently at the top of the wide receiver rankings. He’s the top dog and it’s not even particularly close.
- Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints – Thomas proclaimed that he was uncoverable last year in one of the more memorable moments of the 2019 season, and judging by how often he was open for future hall of famer Drew Brees, it would seem he was correct. The thing that gives Thomas an “elite” label is his consistent production; he seems to put up points nearly every week. While Drew Brees historic career is waning, he and Thomas are still one of the best QB/WR tandems in the entire league.
- Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers – Last year, Adams began to creep into some of the industry experts top 5, but it still felt like his skills were being undersold. He’s be called TD dependent, or feast-or-famine, and any number of other things that would suggest he’s a product of his environment. I’ll tell you that’s just patently wrong. While he certainly gets a boost for being one of the leagues best red zone weapons for a QB who has the ability to find him on any given play, he also benefits from being immensely talented on a pass first team.
- Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons – With the whole world seemingly against Jones as an elite fantasy receiver, he quietly went out there and put to bed the idea that he can’t score touchdowns. We discussed it last year how it was incredibly unlikely he continued to be held out of the endzone, and true to form, we expect another excellent season out of Julio. The emergence of Calvin Ridley as a solid #2 only makes things easier for the uber-talented Julio.
- Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Mike Evans quietly produced one of his finest seasons in the NFL, finishing with more than 1,500 receiving yards and 8 TDs. His 17.7 yards per catch mark was the best of his career, and somehow he still feels overlooked on many rankings lists. Now, Tampa has a competent coaching staff and no foreseeable quarterback controversy, and I expect Evans to pick up right where he left off. While the 1,500 yards is his ceiling, expecting double digit touchdowns could produce top 3 season if the planets align.
- Juju Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers – With the departure of Antonio Brown, Juju becomes the top target in a passing attack that seems to churn out elite wideouts year in and year. Of course, there’s always the fear that without insulation, Smith-Schuster may fold a bit, but I’m confident that he’ll step up and partially fill the shoes left behind by Brown. I’m not ready to put him in the elite class yet, but the sheer number of targets he can expect should help overcome any growing pains.
- Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings – I admit that I was wrong in expecting Thielen to regress. Despite a new offense and quarterback, Thielen hardly missed a beat, compiling a career best stat line, aided by a monster target share that led to 158 targets. There has been nothing to suggest he can expect less than the 25% or so target share he saw last year, so even a slight regression in attempted passes shouldn’t impact his ability to produce. With a solid catch rate of between 65-70% there’s a good chance Thielen sees in excess of 100 catches again in 2019, and another top 10 finish on his resume.
- Antonio Brown, Oakland Raiders – While I’m certainly concerned about his landing spot, I’m not ready to declare him unsuitable for a WR1 spot. It’s certainly obvious that the Raiders have plenty of dysfunction, and the transformation of Amari Cooper was something to behold, but even that Oakland coaching staff has to recognize Brown’s skill as being tantamount to any success. Expect a top 5 finish in targets, but maybe a bit less of an efficient stat line in the end. Selecting Brown any earlier than this is a crap shoot, and I’ll probably avoid him myself, but I won’t suggest that being in Black and Silver will have any impact on how great a receiver Brown is.
- Odell Beckham, Cleveland Browns – Much like Brown, our concerns over OBJ have little to do with his skills and more to do with his specific situation. He’ll immediately leapfrog the receiving corp to become the top option in that Cleveland offense, but it’s fair to admit that Baker Mayfield plays a very different type of football than Eli Manning did. I don’t expect him to spend as much time forcing the football to Odell, and with an elite slot guy in Jarvis Landry, and an excellent red zone weapon in TE David Njoku, I can see Beckham’s bottom line taking a pretty sizable hit. He’ll still finish as a top 10 WR most weeks, but don’t expect him to challenge for the top spot like he’d done in previous seasons.
- Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings – Much like his battery-mate Adam Thielen, Diggs put up a career year in 2019, and that was in spite of nagging injuries that cost him a game and slowed him down late in the year. While we’re concerned about Diggs ability to stay healthy, the track record shows Diggs can expect nearly 10 targets per game (his career average) and that alone is good enough to include him on this list. Given that he and Thielen have been able to coexist as elite fantasy receivers for years, and that Diggs has managed to score 7-9 TDs a year despite not playing a full 16 games yet, and you see how Diggs deserves the lofty place among the top 10. We fully expect another 100 receptions, 1,100 yards, and a potential 10 TDs to help the Minnesota tandem achieve what very few offenses can; two top ten finishes.
Much like our updates to the sleeper list, the Dr. is here to tell you who he’s avoiding in drafts this year. Of course, any time we’re suggesting to NOT draft a player, it’s understood that we’re referencing the current cost to acquire said player. All players have value, we’re just trying to help you maximize the value you receiving with each of your picks.
Tom Brady, QB – NE
As a card carrying member of the Tom Brady fan club, it pains me to include him on this list, but it’s important to remain realistic. His late season struggles in the last few years has been well documented, and much of the blame can be assigned on his offensive line. At 41 years old and behind one of the worst offensive lines he’s had in years, Brady is no safe bet to stay healthy all year, and the late season regression he’s seen for years now is a near guarantee. Sure, he’ll win 12 games for his football team, but he’s not as safe a pick as he has been in the past for your fantasy one.
Carson Wentz, QB – PHI
I’m not suggesting Wentz isn’t a good quarterback by including him on this list; I’m merely drawing attention to the fact that he’s being ranked far to high for my liking. While it’s encouraging that he’s returning from his injury so quickly, it’s important to remember that QB’s returning from knee injuries tend to take time to get up to speed. Head coach Doug Pederson went as far as to describe Wentz’s play as “tentative” further reinforcing the idea that he may not be 100%. Expecting the rushing game to return to the levels it did last year isn’t realistic, and neither is expecting him to remain hyper efficient in the face of NFL defenses. Expecting a low end QB1 finish isn’t outrageous, but drafting him at QB5 is expecting him to play at his ceiling; something I’m not confident a QB returning from injury can do.
Jerick McKinnon, RB – SF
When McKinnon was handed a three year contract by San Francisco in the offseason, I was one of the first to declare that McKinnon was set to breakout in a big way. After all, he was playing the lead back role in an up and coming Kyle Shanahan offense. Then, I put the time in to research, and while most of the industry is expecting big things, there’s a well defined group in the community who expect McKinnon to fall flat on his face. While I exist somewhere in between, the truth is that McKinnon has never really shown that he’s got lead back ability. Between losing snaps to Matt Asiata when Adrian Peterson went down, to posting sub 4 yards per carry in limited action over the last two seasons, it appears that we were a bit premature anointing the second coming of Emmett Smith. Expecting him to play all season as a RB1 is a recipe for disaster.
Derrick Henry, RB – TEN
Henry is a back that I personally think has the talent to be a top 10 RB in the league, but Tennessee had the great idea to add elite satellite back Dion Lewis to muddy the waters that had begun to clear when DeMarco Murray left town. Currently being drafted 25th overall, Henry has a steep hill to climb to secure a three down workload, and with a pick in the third round, I’m not sure I’m willing to spend it on a back who’s whole claim to the position was his college production. Henry could prove to be a very useful fantasy asset, but it’ll be only at the expense of Dion Lewis, who’d need to suffer a major injury to open up passing downs for the young Henry.
Tyreek Hill, WR – KC
I’d like to preface this by saying I think Hill is one of the most talented down-the-field receivers in the NFL, but not enough is being made of the situation he’s facing with a first year starter and added weapons suppressing his overall value. Alex Smith may be rightly panned over his career for being a conservative quarterback, but expecting Pat Mahomes to step in and play even close to the season Smith had last year is insane. As an MVP candidate, Smith was one of the most efficient deep ball practitioners last year, and while Mahomes features a monster arm, there are going to be growing pains. While Hill should still be productive, he’s a regression candidate yet he’s being draft as though that’s a fallacy. If he falls a round or two, he’d be worth grabbing, but not as a WR1.
Juju Smith-Schuster, WR – PIT
I’m amazed at how quickly a player went from being un-drafted to being over drafted, but Juju managed it in record time. While he’s a name that I was hoping to target in drafts this year, I’m not touching him at his current price. Being drafted before Brandin Cooks, Josh Gordon, Larry Fitzgerald, and Demaryius Thomas, there’s clearly an unreasonable expectation that the Pittsburgh offense can support both Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell as top 5 players and elevate Juju to anything more than a back-end WR2. The issue with drafting him at 42nd overall, his current ADP, is that you can’t expect him to outperform that position. We say it all the time, never draft a player at their ceiling, unless you’re prepared to be disappointed.
Jimmy Graham, TE – GB
Sure, it wasn’t long ago that Graham was considered one of the two or three best pass catching tight ends in the league. His time in New Orleans saw him secure no less than 85 catches over a four year period from 2010 to 2014, but the wheels came off in his first year with the Seahawks. While he was much better in 2016, the now 31 year old TE looked his age last year, performing admirably in the end zone but failing to record more than 65 receptions for the third straight year. In Green Bay, he’ll likely be asked to play a similar role, featuring mostly in the red zone, with less target share thanks to a deeper wide receiver corps. Expecting a return to the pre-Seahawks form is asinine, yet he’s being drafted 5th at the position, before Greg Olsen, Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, and Delanie Walker; all candidates I expect to finish ahead of Graham by seasons end.
Adam Theilen has seen his ADP drop a bit, so he’s no longer a focus on these bust lists, but he’s still being drafted a bit too high for me to like his value. Kenyan Drake was impressive in his limited time last year, but he doesn’t have the pedigree or track record to perform as a top 10 RB over a full season, and Miami’s offseason moves seem to say the same thing. DeShaun Watson has had plenty of time to recover from his major knee injury, but the obvious regression coming seems to be ignored when setting expectations. As the 4th QB off the board, I’m out on Watson.
One of the most useless exercises that gets perpetuated during every sport’s preseason time is the “bold predictions” article. But since this is the fantasy sports blogger equivalent to “if all of your friends jump off a bridge” argument, I suppose I’ll jump too (featuring a whole lot of sarcasm).
1. Leonard Fournette has a monster sophomore slump, finishing outside the top 20 for running backs and costing his teams a shot at the title.
2. Jared Goff wins the MVP. With added weapons, and an elite defense protecting leads, Goff throws for 4,500 yards and 33 TDs.
3. Juju Smith-Schuster pushes Antonio Brown for the most targets on the Steeler’s roster and easily crests 1,200 yards receiving.
4. Evan Engram finishes as the TE1, scoring 16 touch downs to fall one shy of the TE record of 17.
5. Tyrod Taylor rushes for 700 yards and finishes as a top 5 QB despite Cleveland losing 10 games.
6. Saquon Barkley is a monster disappointment, costing fantasy owners a top 20 pick but rewarding them with less than 500 yards and nearly no contributions in the passing game.
7. Sam Darnold beats out the other quarterbacks in the preseason to start week one, and manages to win 8 games for the Jets as a rookie.
8. Sammy Watkins passes Tyreek Hill on the depth chart in Kansas City and coasts past the 100 target mark to finish as a top 15 WR.
9. Jeremy Hill fends off former teammate Rex Burkhead for the Patriots first two downs, and while he misses the 1,000 yard mark, manages 10+ scores for the first time in 2 years.
10. Minnesota Vikings fails to produce a top 15 WR as Kirk Cousins struggles in his first season for the Vikings.
Following and exciting day one at the 2018 NFL draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers have traded the talented, yet inconsistent Martavis Bryant to the Oakland Raiders for a third round pick. In terms of value, both teams add an asset to their arsenal; the Raiders acquire a big bodied, stretch-the-field type player they desired after Michael Crabtree left town, and the Steelers traded a disgruntled albatross for more draft capital.
In terms of fantasy impact, this one has a few implications. Bryant is better suited to inherit the targets that Crabtree vacated, despite Nelson’s pedigree. At his age, with his injury history, Nelson is best suited as a specialist in the red zone and on third downs. Of course, this could all be moot if Bryant continues to be a locker room distraction, as Gruden is likely to keep a close watch on his behavior.
The hole left in Pittsburgh is easily filled by the talented second year player Juju Smith-Schuster. Already a fantasy darling thanks to some big games in the playoffs, Schuster should now see an expanded roll that only gets larger if Brown experiences any time off the field.
The better value will ultimately depend on what kind of expectations the “experts” heft on Bryant. His ceiling is incredibly high, but between the two players (he and Smith-Schuster) his ceiling is undoubtedly the lower of the two. I’d advise caution when drafting the former, but with Schuster, draft away.