4×4 Rookie Mock Series – v. 1.0

Jeff Ratcliffe gives insights an analysis of our first rookie mock draft for 2015.

| 2 years ago
Amari Cooper

4×4 Rookie Mock Series – v. 1.0

Amari CooperIn an effort to keep our finger on the pulse of the fantasy world throughout the draft process this year, we’re running a series of rookie mock drafts, called the 4×4 Series.

With the Combine about to kick into high gear this weekend, we conducted the first mock this past week. Our next mock will be mid-March following the Combine. Ultimately, the goal of this series is to monitor the ebb and flow of fantasy value in the months and weeks leading up to the NFL Draft.

So this information can have a wide reach, we kept things simple. The mocks are four rounds with no positional limitations. We also used a .5 PPR format, which gives the results the widest possible reach.

You’ll recognize most of the participants as PFF Fantasy staffers, and we were also joined by our friends Jon Moore from RotoViz, Rich Hribar of XNSports (among other sites), and Ryan McDowell from DynastyLeagueFootball.

Bellow I list the picks in a round-by-round fashion followed by my general thoughts. I also included the picker’s brief comments on their picks.

Rd Drafter Player Pos Comments
1.01 Tyler Loechner Todd Gurley RB Gurley is the consensus 1.01 pick in most formats, and he could have even more immediate value if he lands in a good spot.
1.02 Ryan McDowell Amari Cooper WR Gurley/Cooper have separated themselves as the top 2 rookies in most formats, so this is an easy pick with Gurley off the board. I do have some concern that Cooper could land in a bad spot like OAK or NYJ, which would affect his value.
1.03 Shawn Siegele Melvin Gordon RB When compared to Gurley, Gordon is older, lighter, and less experienced as a receiver, and all of those things matter a lot. But Gordon might also be the best pure runner to enter the league in a long time. And that matters too.
1.04 Jeff Ratcliffe Kevin White WR Put up big numbers last season despite the suspect QB situation. Has a long-term WR1 ceiling.
1.05 Michael Moore DeVante Parker WR Averaged 7/142/1 per game last year before a foot injury, Parker could also post a sub-4.4 40-time.
1.06 Rich Hribar Dorial Green-Beckham WR Still the most talented WR in the class with elite size if it all comes together, just needs one team to use significant draft capital on him.
1.07 Scott Spratt Devin Funchess WR Funchess has all the tools to potentially become an elite fantasy option down the line, and Kelvin Benjamin showed that a physically dominant player can make a quick fantasy impact even if he cannot create dramatic separation or if he struggles with drops.
1.08 Joey Cartolano Jay Ajayi RB Ajayi has the potential to be a three-down back in the right system. He has great footwork for a bigger back and is adept at catching the ball out of the backfield.
1.09 Pat Thorman Jaelen Strong WR Since this is a mock I couldn’t trade my other picks to go get DGB, but like Strong a lot too. Good size, hands, age, and more than enough speed. Moves like a longer, faster Anquan Boldin.
1.10 Dan Schneier Breshad Perriman WR Perriman is everything that Sammie Coates should be. He’s big bodied, a hands catcher, and his father played in the NFL.
1.11 Jon Moore Tevin Coleman RB Coleman averaged 158 yards & 1.3 TD from scrimmage over his final two seasons. Like him over fellow tier-two RB Duke J.
1.12 Eli Nachmany Jameis Winston QB Leery of Mariota because his skill set doesn’t translate to the NFL, which makes Winston the only QB worth having. We’ll lock him up here.

The first round is fairly straightforward at the top. I went with Kevin White at 1.04, but could have chosen any one of the three receivers in that range. Dorial Green-Beckham’s stock is on the rise, and I may have went with him if I was drafting today.

Devin Funchess has one of the more unique player profiles in this year’s class. A true tweener, there’s a chance he plays tight end at the pro level, but he could also emerge as a Kelvin Benjamin-like wide receiver.

In a year loaded with running back, it’s interesting that only two more go in the first round with Jay Ajayi going at 1.08 and Tevin Coleman at 1.12. At this point, it’s extremely tough to gauge fantasy value at the position. This will obviously shift significantly over the next few months.

I’d be remiss to not mention Jameis Winston sneaking in at the back of the first round. It’s a poor year for quarterbacks and tight ends, and there’s a good chance Winston doesn’t crack the first round when your rookie draft rolls around. At this point, it’s difficult to evaluate his fantasy value, but I still feel he’s more of an early second-round pick.

Rd Drafter Player Pos Comments
2.01 Tyler Loechner Sammie Coates WR Wanted Winston, but happy to get Coates in Rd. 2 (he’s worth late Rd. 1). Has good size and great speed, but needs to catch the ball more consistently.
2.02 Ryan McDowell Duke Johnson RB Versatile, big play RB. Worried about injury history though.
2.03 Shawn Siegele T.J. Yeldon RB Pick made based on Pre-Draft List. Yeldon owns a strong and balanced size/speed/production profile.
2.04 Jeff Ratcliffe Ameer Abdullah RB The second-tier RBs are tightly bunched right now, but getting Abdullah in the mid-second speaks to how deep the position is in 2015.
2.05 Michael Moore Maxx Williams TE Pick made based on Pre-Draft List. Rookie TEs are always dicey but Williams is the best of ’15. Will be only 21 when the season starts.
2.06 Rich Hribar Nelson Agholor WR Immediate contributor outside/inside/return game and YAC monster that improved every season.
2.07 Scott Spratt Mike Davis RB Mike Davis has the size to be a three-down back in the NFL, and he also caught 30+ balls the last two seasons at South Carolina.
2.08 Joey Cartolano David Cobb RB Cobb doesn’t possess elite physical traits but he is a solid downhill runner who has shown the ability to play on all three downs. Had I known he’d be here, I probably would have taken Jaelen Strong at 1.08
2.09 Pat Thorman Marcus Mariota QB A late 2nd round pick is worth it just on the chance he winds up an Eagle. Trade him for a solid profit or hope he’s The One for Chip’s offense.
2.10 Dan Schneier Devin Smith WR Just missed the cutoff at RB with Cobb. I’ll go for a player I’ve seen win vertically better than anyone else over the last several games.
2.11 Jon Moore Jesse James TE Several strong years of production, the youngest TE in the draft, and projected to shine at the Combine, I’ll roll the dice on James.
2.12 Eli Nachmany Rashad Greene WR Another Seminole with this pick—Greene is a prototype split end receiver who has the tools to be a productive, high-volume pass catcher.

The running backs start to go at the top of the second round. There are a lot of tightly packed groups of players in this year’s class. The second-tier running back group is maybe the best example. Duke Johnson, Coleman, Ajayi, T.J. Yeldon, and Ameer Abdullah all have the potential to offer similar fantasy ceilings. While one may get preference over the others on your draft board, the key is that you can likely sneak away with one of them as late as the mid-second round. That’s excellent value.

Maxx Williams makes sense in the second round, though the lack of depth at the position may cause him to be a bit overvalued in fantasy circles. Case in point: Jesse James. It was a surprise to see James go in the second round, but Moore admits this is a roll of the dice.

Nelson Agholor has flown somewhat under the radar so far, but he has the potential to pay some nice fantasy dividends. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Agholor is on the redraft fantasy radar in 2015. I love the value at 2.06. Similarly, the Rashad Greene pick screams value. He’s polished enough coming out of college to immediately contribute at the pro level.

Thorman’s pick of Marcus Mariota is about as spot on as it gets. I may have leaned Mariota over David Cobb, who is well rounded as a player but doesn’t offer the highest fantasy ceiling. Despite coming with questions, Mariota does have the potential to be a QB1 if he reaches his ceiling.

3.01 Tyler Loechner Phillip Dorsett WR He’s small, but so is Antonio Brown. He averaged 26.6 YPC last year.
3.02 Ryan McDowell Josh Robinson RB A do-everything underrated RB. I think he ends up a 2nd round fantasy pick in rookie drafts.
3.03 Shawn Siegele Javorius Allen RB Allen’s combination of size and receiving ability projects extremely well for fantasy value.
3.04 Jeff Ratcliffe Vince Mayle WR Big-bodied receiver with loads of upside. May not pay immediate dividends, but his long-term ceiling is quite high.
3.05 Michael Moore David Johnson RB Big back who could sneak into the 2nd round, Johnson likely projects as a third down/passing back.
3.06 Rich Hribar Tyler Lockett WR Lockett and Crowder are similar options here, but I’ll edge Lockett since I believe he could get into the 2nd round this draft.
3.07 Scott Spratt Jeremy Langford RB Langford is on the small side for an NFL back, but his agility and quickness can help him produce as part of a committee.
3.08 Joey Cartolano Stefon Diggs WR Definition of a boom or bust pick but the third round feels about right for a player of Diggs’ potential.
3.09 Pat Thorman Justin Hardy WR Projects as a slot guy but also can line up outside. Caught a ton of balls in college and plays a bit bigger than his frame.
3.10 Dan Schneier Antwan Goodley WR At 5’10 and 220 pounds, Goodley is built like a possession receiver, but he can win on vertical routes. Reminds me of a poor man’s Roddy White.
3.11 Jon Moore Titus Davis WR I like Titus better than 5-6 WRs that went ahead of him. Easily the most under-appreciated WR in this draft.
3.12 Eli Nachmany Clive Walford TE The “most explosive tight end in the draft” per Mike Mayock, Walford is going to put up big numbers if he gets enough snaps as a rookie.

At this point in rookie drafts, the goal is to get as much bang for your buck as possible. The good news is this isn’t the NBA, and you can certainly snag some good talent in the later rounds. Loechner does just that with Phillip Dorsett at the top of the round. I don’t expect him to be available this late in our next mock, as he should be squarely on the rookie radar after his Combine performance this weekend.

The running back talent just keeps coming this year. To be fair, Josh Robinson, Javorious Allen, David Johnson, and Jeremy Langford were drafted where they should be in this mock. However, any one of these players could land in a situation that pushes their fantasy stock upward. Keep an eye on all of these backs.

Nachmany gets one of the best snags of the draft with Clive Walford at the end of the round. Walford is getting some buzz from the top draft analysts, and he reminds me a little of Vernon Davis from a fantasy standpoint. I could easily see him go in the second round when rookie drafts start up in May.

The Titus Davis selection was perhaps the one that caught my eye the most in the third round. Moore takes another stand and says Davis is the “most under-appreciated” receiver in this draft. Admittedly, I have barely reviewed the Central Michigan product, but it will be interesting to monitor his stock in the coming months.

4.01 Tyler Loechner Brett Hundley QB Worth it simply for the chance he goes to the Eagles.
4.02 Ryan McDowell Karlos Williams RB Terrible college season, but I’m still a believer in his talent. Worth a shot past the 3rd round.
4.03 Shawn Siegele Jamison Crowder WR A far better college player than Smith or Dorsett, the only real question is whether his size will limit pro fantasy value.
4.04 Jeff Ratcliffe Austin Hill WR Taking a risk on his upside. Had a great 2012, then tore his ACL in 2013.
4.05 Michael Moore Deontay Greenberry WR Has the physical tools at 6’3″ and 200 pounds but still raw and needs a lot of work. True project.
4.06 Rich Hribar Gus Johnson RB Johnson is everything David Cobb is with an extra gear.
4.07 Scott Spratt Cameron Artis-Payne RB Artis-Payne played at JUCO before 2 years at Auburn; that non-traditional path is the only reason he’s available in the 4th round.
4.08 Joey Cartolano Devin Gardner WR In the 4th round, the converted QB with elite athleticism is worth the risk.
4.09 Pat Thorman Davante Davis WR Davis is a big-framed WR with room to fill out. He’d be getting more attention w/o ’14 injury issues. Could dominate physically with a little polish in right system.
4.10 Dan Schneier Desmin Lewis WR Lewis has the size to compete on the outside and he shows a surprising ability to get deep in spite of his limited straight-line speed.
4.11 Jon Moore Terrell Watson RB Watson is the best RB prospect nobody knows about.
4.12 Eli Nachmany Dee Hart RB The insanely productive (1,275 yds, 16 TD) RB was part of CSU’s 2014 offensive juggernaut. He’ll earn enough touches to be fantasy relevant.

Speculation abounds in the fourth round. There are a number of fliers who may fall off the fantasy radar before rookie drafts roll around. Likewise, some of the players may rise up the rookie fantasy rankings.

Both Karlos Williams and Austin Hill saw their fantasy stock dip after disappointing 2014 seasons. Williams’ production declined, though the talent is certainly still there. Hill returned from an ACL, and didn’t quite seem him self. Both are great risk/reward picks at this point in the draft. Likewise, I like the shots taken on Davante Davis and Deontay Greenberry. Their high ceilings make them ideal late-round rookie targets.

We also saw some interesting write-ins starting with Hribar’s Gus Johnson pick. Johnson wasn’t invited to the Combine, but could be a Day 3 pick. Devin Gardner at 4.08 was also interesting. The receiver who converted to quarterback is moving back to receiver. Like Johnson, Garner won’t be at the combine, but his size-speed profile is intriguing for fantasy purposes.

Once again, Moore bangs the drum for an under-the-radar player, selecting Terrell Watson at 4.11. The Azusa Pacific product (yes, I swear that’s a real school) is certainly a dark horse, but he wouldn’t be the first Azusa Pacific Cougar to play in the NFL. The “Nigerian Nightmare” Christian Okoye is currently their most famous alum.


Jeff Ratcliffe is the Assistant Managing Editor and resident IDP maven of PFF Fantasy.  

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Jeff Ratcliffe is the Director of Fantasy at Pro Football Focus. He produces all of our projections and is 2016's second-most-accurate ranker in the fantasy industry. Jeff also is the host of our show on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio and is one of the main hosts of our Fantasy Slant podcast.

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