Fantasy football mock drafts: An early look at analysts’ strategies

Mike Tagliere got a group of fantasy writers together for an early mock draft to look at some early storylines and trends.

| 4 weeks ago
(Justin K. Aller, Getty Images)

(Justin K. Aller, Getty Images)

Fantasy football mock drafts: An early look at analysts’ strategies


It’s Friday night toward the end of February, you have nothing to do, no plans, no kids, no TV shows to catch up on, nothing… You call up your friends and they all have plans, because, after all, it is Friday night. As you stroll around aimlessly, you think, “What better time than to do a mock draft!” This is the life of a fantasy football analyst. Or at least me.

But let’s get a few things straight. It wasn’t a Friday night, it was a Wednesday night, so there. I did have my child, who was sitting on my lap while drafting. I watched TV shows with my wife afterward. Oh, and my friends also wanted to take part in the draft. It doesn’t sound so bad now, right?

Whatever the case, I sat down with some other folks from the industry to do an extremely early mock draft for the 2017 season. While you may be stuck on rookie drafts right now, there were rookies drafted here as well. As a matter of fact, there were four of them taken in the first seven rounds alone.

You might wonder, “Why would someone want to do a mock draft in February with so much that will change before the season?” We have a sickness, that’s why. But even more importantly, we did that so I could write about it. My takeaways were actually stronger than I anticipated, as were some of the other analysts that took part in the article. Some shared their thoughts, so I’ve included them as well.

It’s important to know that when doing this draft, there was no ADP. Everyone was on their own. This draft may go very differently than yours because of that, but this is a solid place to start your research. Keep in mind this is PPR format, with the starting positions set as: 1 QB, 3 WR, 2 RB, 1 TE, 2 W/R/T, 1 D/ST, 5 Bench. We also had one no-show, so one team got autodrafted from a set sheet.

Rounds 1-3

1.01 Brandon Marianne Lee Brown, Antonio PIT WR
1.02 Michael Stepney Beckham, Odell NYG WR
1.03 Anthony Amico Evans, Mike TBB WR
1.04 Karl Safchick Jones, Julio ATL WR
1.05 Joe Paeno Johnson, David ARI RB
1.06 Mike Tagliere Bell, Le’Veon PIT RB
1.07 Dave Sanders Elliott, Ezekiel DAL RB
1.08 Michael Moore McCoy, LeSean BUF RB
1.09 Jared Smola Green, A.J. CIN WR
1.10 Random Nelson, Jordy GBP WR
1.11 Daniel Kelley Freeman, Devonta ATL RB
1.12 Anto Dowsett Howard, Jordan CHI RB
2.01 Anto Dowsett Bryant, Dez DAL WR
2.02 Daniel Kelley Hilton, T.Y. IND WR
2.03 Random Cooper, Amari OAK WR
2.04 Jared Smola Gordon, Melvin LAC RB
2.05 Michael Moore Thomas, Michael NOS WR
2.06 Dave Sanders Gronkowski, Rob NEP TE
2.07 Mike Tagliere Robinson, Allen JAC WR
2.08 Joe Paeno Ajayi, Jay MIA RB
2.09 Karl Safchick Hopkins, DeAndre HOU WR
2.10 Anthony Amico Diggs, Stefon MIN WR
2.11 Michael Stepney Baldwin, Doug SEA WR
2.12 Brandon Marianne Lee Allen, Keenan LAC WR
3.01 Brandon Marianne Lee Hyde, Carlos SFO RB
3.02 Michael Stepney Miller, Lamar HOU RB
3.03 Anthony Amico Cooks, Brandin NOS WR
3.04 Karl Safchick Murray, DeMarco TEN RB
3.05 Joe Paeno Landry, Jarvis MIA WR
3.06 Mike Tagliere Jeffery, Alshon CHI WR
3.07 Dave Sanders Cook, Dalvin FA RB
3.08 Michael Moore Ingram, Mark NOS RB
3.09 Jared Smola Watkins, Sammy BUF WR
3.10 Random Gurley, Todd LAR RB
3.11 Daniel Kelley Edelman, Julian NEP WR
3.12 Anto Dowsett Kelce, Travis KCC TE

Before talking about the actual picks, I’ll say that the draft seems to be very top-heavy, with the top six or seven picks forming a tier of their own. When you can land Le’Veon Bell at No. 6 or Ezekiel Elliott at No. 7, you want to draft in that spot.

With that being said, the oddball that stands out to me in this group would be the Mike Evans pick at 1.03. While Evans was a force to be reckoned with in 2016, he likely saw his ceiling in terms of targets, as the Buccaneers have made it a top priority to find a weapon to play opposite him. The pick of Evans allowed me to snag Bell at 1.06, which I believe was the best pick in the first round (though I may be biased). David Johnson at 1.05 was also a very solid pick, though I’d still be taking Bell over Johnson as the first running back off the board.

As we got into the second round, my biggest takeaway was that there aren’t many second-round players. When picking between guys like Allen Robinson, Jay Ajayi, and Carlos Hyde, you don’t exactly shout out your picks with confidence. I haven’t given up on Robinson (clearly), but I also didn’t like drafting him where I did. Your first two picks should scream safety, so by taking Robinson there, I feel I made one of the worst picks in the round. While I like Stefon Diggs, I think Anthony Amico could’ve snagged him a round or two later. Here’s what he said on the pick: “Diggs was the WR13 last season in PPR points per game. Now with a full offseason to get healthy, a rise to WR1 status could be on the horizon.”

The steal of the second round for me goes to Jared Smola when he took Melvin Gordon at 2.04. He got a workhorse running back in an offense that has so many elite options in the passing game that he should see plenty of base defenses to run against. He has zero competition and his offensive coordinator just said they feel he can do more next year. He is one of the few true workhorses left in the NFL and is worthy of a late-first-round pick.

(Tim Warner/Getty Images)

Getting into the third round, that’s why you start to look for players with upside and I think Smola got it right again with Sammy Watkins. If I’d been guaranteed that Tyrod Taylor would be back with him in Buffalo, I’d have taken Watkins over Robinson in the second round. The question mark surrounding his quarterback situation poses a big problem, and it’s the reason he slipped to the end of the third round. Another solid pick went to Michael Moore, who snagged Mark Ingram at 3.08. He’s finished as a top-15 running back in three straight seasons and Tim Hightower isn’t getting any younger.

Dave Sanders’ pick of Dalvin Cook at 3.07 struck me as a bit too early until you start to think about his potential landing spots. If he were to fall to a team like the Colts at No. 14, Cook would immediately jump into a three-down role and should be drafted as a top-12 running back. This is a pick that could pay huge dividends if he lands in the right situation.

Rounds 4-6

4.01 Anto Dowsett Thomas, Demaryius DEN WR
4.02 Daniel Kelley Anderson, C.J. DEN RB
4.03 Random Fournette, Leonard FA RB
4.04 Jared Smola Reed, Jordan WAS TE
4.05 Michael Moore Sanders, Emmanuel DEN WR
4.06 Dave Sanders Crabtree, Michael OAK WR
4.07 Mike Tagliere Ware, Spencer KCC RB
4.08 Joe Paeno Adams, Davante GBP WR
4.09 Karl Safchick Olsen, Greg CAR TE
4.10 Anthony Amico Tate, Golden DET WR
4.11 Michael Stepney Cobb, Randall GBP WR
4.12 Brandon Marianne Lee Coleman, Tevin ATL RB
5.01 Brandon Marianne Lee Rodgers, Aaron GBP QB
5.02 Michael Stepney McCaffrey, Christian FA RB
5.03 Anthony Amico Matthews, Rishard TEN WR
5.04 Karl Safchick Coleman, Corey CLE WR
5.05 Joe Paeno Decker, Eric NYJ WR
5.06 Mike Tagliere Moncrief, Donte IND WR
5.07 Dave Sanders Pryor, Terrelle CLE WR
5.08 Michael Moore Luck, Andrew IND QB
5.09 Jared Smola Benjamin, Kelvin CAR WR
5.10 Random Brady, Tom NEP QB
5.11 Daniel Kelley Brees, Drew NOS QB
5.12 Anto Dowsett Peterson, Adrian MIN RB
6.01 Anto Dowsett Marshall, Brandon NYJ WR
6.02 Daniel Kelley Crowder, Jamison WAS WR
6.03 Random Lacy, Eddie GBP RB
6.04 Jared Smola Fitzgerald, Larry ARI WR
6.05 Michael Moore Graham, Jimmy SEA TE
6.06 Dave Sanders Bryant, Martavis PIT WR
6.07 Mike Tagliere Eifert, Tyler CIN TE
6.08 Joe Paeno Matthews, Jordan PHI WR
6.09 Karl Safchick Perriman, Breshad BAL WR
6.10 Anthony Amico Montgomery, Ty GBP RB
6.11 Michael Stepney Riddick, Theo DET RB
6.12 Brandon Marianne Lee Hill, Tyreek KCC WR

This is when the draft got fun, because when there is no ADP, you have to reach for those who you want, especially if you’re near the turn of a round. With that being said, Daniel Kelley wins the fourth round with his pick of C.J. Anderson. We saw his “competition” when he went down last season and I’d be shocked if Tony Romo is not in a Broncos uniform next season. To get a running back that is locked in for 15-plus touches in the fourth round, he got some great value. My pick of Spencer Ware was in the same ballpark (I think he could be a top-10 back this year), though there are a few questions surrounding Jamaal Charles, which lowers him a bit.

(Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Amico snagged Golden Tate at the end of the fourth round, and while I’m not a huge Tate guy, his pick was a steal in the PPR format. Tate finished inside the top 24 wide receivers in 2015 and stepping into the top 18 in 2016, despite being nonexistent for the first five weeks. From Weeks 6 to 17, Tate was the No. 7 PPR wide receiver and Amico got him as the 25th wide receiver off the board.

Between the fifth and the sixth rounds, quarterbacks started to go as Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Tom Brady and Drew Brees all went off the board. This is where others tried picking out some of the high-upside players like Donte Moncrief (myself) and Terrelle Pryor (Sanders). My least favorite pick of these rounds was pretty obvious, and it was Stepney’s pick of Christian McCaffrey at 5.02. There are definitely times when a rookie is worth the risk, but I think Stepney just wanted part of the rookie running backs, but Cook and Fournette were gone, which made him reach a bit.

Rounds 7-10

7.01 Brandon Marianne Lee Henry, Derrick TEN RB
7.02 Michael Stepney Davis, Corey FA WR
7.03 Anthony Amico Meredith, Cameron CHI WR
7.04 Karl Safchick Williams, Tyrell LAC WR
7.05 Joe Paeno Jackson, DeSean WAS WR
7.06 Mike Tagliere Dixon, Kenneth BAL RB
7.07 Dave Sanders Wilson, Russell SEA QB
7.08 Michael Moore Perkins, Paul NYG RB
7.09 Jared Smola Abdullah, Ameer DET RB
7.10 Random Ertz, Zach PHI TE
7.11 Daniel Kelley Kelley, Rob WAS RB
7.12 Anto Dowsett Blount, LeGarrette NEP RB
8.01 Anto Dowsett Rawls, Thomas SEA RB
8.02 Daniel Kelley Ebron, Eric DET TE
8.03 Random Powell, Bilal NYJ RB
8.04 Jared Smola Crowell, Isaiah CLE RB
8.05 Michael Moore Brown, John ARI WR
8.06 Dave Sanders Stills, Kenny MIA WR
8.07 Mike Tagliere Parker, DeVante MIA WR
8.08 Joe Paeno Walker, Delanie TEN TE
8.09 Karl Safchick Murray, Latavius OAK RB
8.10 Anthony Amico Johnson, Duke CLE RB
8.11 Michael Stepney Henry, Hunter LAC TE
8.12 Brandon Marianne Lee Prosise, C.J. SEA RB
9.01 Brandon Marianne Lee Shepard, Sterling NYG WR
9.02 Michael Stepney Mariota, Marcus TEN QB
9.03 Anthony Amico Lockett, Tyler SEA WR
9.04 Karl Safchick Doctson, Josh WAS WR
9.05 Joe Paeno Charles, Jamaal KCC RB
9.06 Mike Tagliere Mitchell, Malcolm NEP WR
9.07 Dave Sanders Brate, Cameron TBB TE
9.08 Michael Moore Williams, Mike FA WR
9.09 Jared Smola White, Kevin CHI WR
9.10 Random Forte, Matt NYJ RB
9.11 Daniel Kelley Britt, Kenny LAR WR
9.12 Anto Dowsett Bernard, Giovani CIN RB
10.01 Anto Dowsett Jones, Marvin DET WR
10.02 Daniel Kelley Gore, Frank IND RB
10.03 Random Lee, Marqise JAC WR
10.04 Jared Smola Hill, Jeremy CIN RB
10.05 Michael Moore Smith, Torrey SFO WR
10.06 Dave Sanders Sims, Charles TBB RB
10.07 Mike Tagliere Ryan, Matt ATL QB
10.08 Joe Paeno Snead, Willie NOS WR
10.09 Karl Safchick Martin, Doug TBB RB
10.10 Anthony Amico Lewis, Dion NEP RB
10.11 Michael Stepney Woodhead, Danny LAC RB
10.12 Brandon Marianne Lee Maclin, Jeremy KCC WR

One of my favorite picks from this group was Brandon Marianne Lee’s pick of Derrick Henry, and though I think you may be able to get him just a bit later, she was on the turn, so she did the right thing. She made another great pick of Sterling Shepard on the next turn at 9.01. My pick of Kenneth Dixon in the seventh was one of my favorite picks in the draft, simply because I believe he is the Ravens’ workhorse in 2017. Moore stole John Brown from me in the eighth round, as I really had no clue how people were viewing him. I’m usually against rookie wide receivers, but at 9.08 Mike Williams may be able to contribute right away. If the Raiders decide to keep around Latavius Murray, Karl Safchick got a steal at 8.09. I was planning on waiting at quarterback even longer than I did, but getting Matt Ryan in the 10th seemed too good to pass up.

(Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

A couple highlights from this group:

Daniel Kelley – Eric Ebron 8.02: “I love my tight ends. Ebron in the eighth and Rudolph in the 12th gives me a top-three or four TE tandem, I think, considering Ebron’s high ceiling and Rudolph’s high floor.”

Joe Paeno – Jamaal Charles 9.05: “The ninth round felt like a great place to roll the dice on Charles. If he doesn’t hit value, then he probably retired.”

Dave Sanders – Kenny Stills 8.06: “Surprisingly still only 24 years old, Stills has a chance to breakout in 2017 if he lands in the right situation. WR2 upside.”

Rounds 11-14 (Everyone picked D/ST in the 15th round)

11.01 Brandon Marianne Lee Thielen, Adam MIN WR
11.02 Michael Stepney Garcon, Pierre WAS WR
11.03 Anthony Amico McKinnon, Jerick MIN RB
11.04 Karl Safchick Yeldon, T.J. JAC RB
11.05 Joe Paeno Richard, Jalen OAK RB
11.06 Mike Tagliere Stewart, Jonathan CAR RB
11.07 Dave Sanders Nelson, J.J. ARI WR
11.08 Michael Moore Sproles, Darren PHI RB
11.09 Jared Smola Wallace, Mike BAL WR
11.10 Random Gabriel, Taylor ATL WR
11.11 Daniel Kelley Hogan, Chris NEP WR
11.12 Anto Dowsett Fuller, Will HOU WR
12.01 Anto Dowsett Newton, Cam CAR QB
12.02 Daniel Kelley Rudolph, Kyle MIN TE
12.03 Random Bennett, Martellus NEP TE
12.04 Jared Smola Washington, DeAndre OAK RB
12.05 Michael Moore Hooper, Austin ATL TE
12.06 Dave Sanders Gordon, Josh CLE WR
12.07 Mike Tagliere Beasley, Cole DAL WR
12.08 Joe Paeno Prescott, Dak DAL QB
12.09 Karl Safchick Cousins, Kirk WAS QB
12.10 Anthony Amico Cooper, Pharoh LAR WR
12.11 Michael Stepney Boyd, Tyler CIN WR
12.12 Brandon Marianne Lee Fiedorowicz, C.J. HOU TE
13.01 Brandon Marianne Lee Miller, Zach CHI TE
13.02 Michael Stepney Williams, Jamaal FA RB
13.03 Anthony Amico Bortles, Blake JAC QB
13.04 Karl Safchick White, James NEP RB
13.05 Joe Paeno Cook, Jared GBP TE
13.06 Mike Tagliere McDonald, Vance SFO TE
13.07 Dave Sanders Carr, Derek OAK QB
13.08 Michael Moore Anderson, Robby NYJ WR
13.09 Jared Smola Ross, John FA WR
13.10 Random Austin, Tavon LAR WR
13.11 Daniel Kelley Sanu, Mohamed ATL WR
13.12 Anto Dowsett Enunwa, Quincy NYJ WR
14.01 Anto Dowsett Green-Beckham, Dorial PHI WR
14.02 Daniel Kelley Artis-Payne, Cameron CAR RB
14.03 Random Thomas, Julius JAC TE
14.04 Jared Smola Roethlisberger, Ben PIT QB
14.05 Michael Moore Rivers, Philip LAC QB
14.06 Dave Sanders Smallwood, Wendell PHI RB
14.07 Mike Tagliere Mathews, Ryan PHI RB
14.08 Joe Paeno West, Terrance BAL RB
14.09 Karl Safchick Taylor, Tyrod BUF QB
14.10 Anthony Amico Green, Ladarius PIT TE
14.11 Michael Stepney Wright, Kendall TEN WR
14.12 Brandon Marianne Lee Sharpe, Tajae TEN WR

This is the area of the draft where leagues are won a lot of the time. If you were able to hit on players like Davante Adams or Michael Thomas from 2016, you put yourself at a huge advantage. So instead of drafting players that we know who they are, I can appreciate the pick of a young player who may have disappointed the prior year.

For that reason, Safchick’s pick of T.J. Yeldon at 11.04 was one of my favorites. After an impressive rookie season, Yeldon fell flat in 2016. We know the talent is there and if the Jaguars defense continues to improve, it’ll give him even more opportunities. I’d also expect them to address their offensive line in the draft. Even if he doesn’t light up fantasy scoreboards, Safchick got a 12- to 15-touch running back in the 11th round.

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Joe Paeno’s pick of Dak Prescott in the 12th round was another one of my favorites, as I have him ranked as my No. 7 quarterback in my initial rankings. Believe it or not, I was teetering on drafting him over Matt Ryan in the 10th round. Paeno told me that he was torn between Prescott and Cam Newton, but had the decision made for him when Newton was drafted earlier in the round.

The final pick by Stepney was one that I would’ve made myself, had I been paying attention. One of the players I’m excited to see where he lands is Kendall Wright, as he’s a player with first-round talent. If he were to wind up on a team like the Patriots or the Colts, Wright would immediately jump into the top eight rounds. This is a can’t-miss pick and one that I’m kicking myself for. But that’s the beauty of mock drafts. This one didn’t count, but it did remind me of Wright and now going forward, I’ll have that memory, and will adjust my strategy accordingly. That’s how mock drafts can help you. Now get out there and do a few yourself, you just might learn something.



Mike Tagliere is a Lead Writer for PFF Fantasy. He's ranked as a top-six fantasy football expert twice over the last four years by FantasyPros.com.

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