Fantasy analysis of the latest PFF mock draft
Mock draft season is in full swing. In our most recent NFL mock draft, Steve Palazzolo goes three rounds deep. That’s 107 picks of college prospect goodness. While there’s no such thing as a correct mock draft, I thought it might be an interesting exercise to break down the fantasy implications of our latest mock.
It’s a defense-heavy first round, with only 11 offensive skill position players coming off the board. We have the Titans breaking the seal at 1.05 with the selection of WR Corey Davis. Our top-ranked fantasy wide receiver in this year’s class, Davis would give Marcus Mariota the versatile and big target that he’s lacked in his first two years in the league. It isn’t the best fantasy landing spot for Davis, but it’s one that would immediately put him on the fantasy radar.
Two other wideouts come off the board in the first round: Mike Williams to the Bengals at 1.09 and John Ross to the Cardinals at 1.13. Williams and A.J. Green would be a scary receiver tandem for the Bengals, but this wouldn’t be the best landing spot for fantasy purposes. As a second fiddle, Williams’ upside would be capped. The same isn’t necessarily true for Ross in Arizona. He’s the quintessential receiver type for Bruce Arians’ offense. With Larry Fitzgerald coming to the end of the line, Ross would be very intriguing for years to come in a Cardinals uniform.
This isn’t a star-studded quarterback class, but the scarcity at the position is real. We have the Jets stepping up to take Mitchell Trubisky at 1.06. With Josh McCown currently atop the depth chart, Trubisky would be a good bet to open the season as the starter. That said, his short-term fantasy outlook would be murky at best. Deshaun Watson is the next signal-caller selected, going to the Bills at 1.10. Unlike Trubisky, Watson would be a good bet to sit in Year 1. It certainly isn’t the worst landing spot to be teamed up with Sammy Watkins for potentially years to come. Patrick Mahomes also comes off the board in Round 1 at 1.27 to the Chiefs. Mahomes has arguably the highest fantasy ceiling of this year’s signal-callers, but he enters the league very raw. Playing behind Alex Smith and learning from Andy Reid would be an ideal scenario for his long-term fantasy prospects.
Like most mocks throughout the draft process, we have three running backs selected in Round 1. Dalvin Cook is the first to Washington at 1.17. The fit makes sense, and Cook would figure to immediate slot in as the top back on the depth chart. This pick would essentially submarine Rob Kelley’s 2017 fantasy value. Christian McCaffrey to the Lions at 1.21 is a disappointing landing spot considering the Lions offensive line generated the second-least yards before contact per attempt last year. One the other hand, Leonard Fournette to the Raiders would be downright scary. Fournette would be in the RB1 conversation behind the impressive Oakland offensive line.
This is a fantastic class of tight ends with a number of future fantasy standouts. Two of them come off the board in the first round: O.J. Howard to Denver at 1.20 and David Njoku to New Orleans at 1.32. Howard is arguably the most complete tight end in the draft, but this landing spot wouldn’t be the best for his fantasy value due to Denver’s uncertainties at quarterback. On the other hand, Njoku gets a near-perfect pairing for his skillset. It’s rare for tight ends to be fantasy factors in Year 1, but it would be very difficult to not consider Njoku at top-15 option at the position in New Orleans.
Only seven more offensive skill position players come off the board in Round 2. The first is Dede Westbrook to the Rams at 2.05. Westbrook is coming off a strong 2016 campaign, but he’d have little fantasy appeal in this landing spot. The same isn’t necessarily true for Alvin Kamara to the Bengals at 2.09. Cincinnati’s offensive line was decimated in the offseason, but Kamara has the potential to immediately get touches in the backfield. That said, it’s a crowded house in Cincinnati, and there’s no guarantee he sees a significant role.
PFF College favorite Kareem Hunt is the next offensive skill player off the board to the Bucs at pick 2.18. The pick makes a lot of sense, and would provide some clarity to Doug Martin’s future. Hunt would be one of the better running back picks in rookie drafts in this landing spot. Next up is Evan Engram to the Giants at pick 2.23. Engram is a mismatch move tight end who would be a strong fit in Ben McAdoo’s offense. The problem for fantasy purposes is that there are a lot of mouths to feed in the Giant’s offense.
The Texans address their glaring need at quarterback at pick 2.25 with DeShone Kizer. Overall, this is a great landing spot for Kizer’s fantasy value. He’d get to work with Bill O’Brien and would step into a solid offense with a fleet of receivers including his former Notre Dame teammate Will Fuller. Kizer has a high fantasy ceiling, and would arguably be the top quarterback in rookie drafts if this pick comes to fruition.
Perhaps the most controversial pick on draft day will be when Joe Mixon comes off the board. We have that pick going at 2.27 to the Chiefs. For fantasy purposes, it really doesn’t get much better. It’s a running back-friendly offense that uses backs out of the backfield as receivers. Off-field issues aside, Mixon is very talented and would be an immediate fantasy factor in the Chiefs’ offense.
The only other offensive skill position player in Round 2 is Zay Jones at pick 2.29 to the Packers. Sometimes the stars just align. Jones is the all-time FBS leader in receptions (399). Pairing him up with Aaron Rodgers would be excellent for fantasy purposes. Jones is a short and intermediate receiver who could push for snaps immediately.
This is by far the most offensive player-heavy round in the mock, but that’s due largely to the 11 compensatory picks at the end of the round. In total 16 skill position players come off the board. Two of them were quarterbacks: Nathan Peterman to the Browns at 3.01 and Brad Kaaya to the Steelers at 3.30. Peterman has the potential to be a starter in the league, but he isn’t likely to be a long-term QB1 option. Kaaya offers upside, but he enters the league as more of a developmental prospect.
At wide receiver, JuJu Smith-Schuster goes to the 49ers at 3.02, Cooper Kupp to the Jets at 3.06, Carlos Henderson to the Chargers at 3.07, Curtis Samuel to the Saints at 3.12, Mack Hollins to Ravens at 3.14, Chad Hansen to the Panthers at 3.34, Chris Godwin the Broncos at 3.37, and Taywan Taylor to the Saints at 3.39. There are a number of interesting fits in this bunch. Henderson is a rugged run-after-catch receiver who would be a nice complement to Keenan Allen in the Chargers offense. The Saints getting both Samuel and Taylor would be especially intriguing. With Brandin Cooks out of the mix, Samuel offers field-stretching ability, while Taylor would give Drew Brees another presence outside the numbers. Smith-Schuster would step in as arguably the No. 2 receiving option in San Francisco.
Five tight ends come off the board in Round 3. The athletic Gerald Everett goes to the Vikings at 3.15. While in-line TE Kyle Rudolph is already in house, Everett offers a Jimmy Graham skillset as a move option. He wouldn’t be a short-term fantasy option in this landing spot. George Kittle is next at 3.21 to the Lions. At best, he’d be second fiddle to Eric Ebron in the short term. Bucky Hodges then goes to the Seahawks at 3.26. A tweener, he’d be the potential heir apparent to Jimmy Graham in the Seattle offense. Next, Jake Butt goes to the Dolphins at 3.33. He’s coming off a torn ACL, but has the potential to immediately contribute. This would be a strong landing spot for his short- and long-term fantasy outlooks. Finally, Jeremy Sprinkle goes to the Steelers at 3.41. He’s a prototypical Steelers tight end, but wouldn’t be fantasy relevant in the short-term.
Only one running back comes off the board in the third round: D’Onta Foreman to the Jets at pick 3.43. Foreman is a one-year wonder at the college level, but certainly has the size and speed profile of an NFL back. However, landing with the Jets wouldn’t be the best scenario for his short-term fantasy value. The lack of backs in this round speaks to the recent trend at the position. There’s still plenty of talent left at the position, so we’re likely to see future fantasy starters come off the board on Day 3 of the draft.