Fantasy football mock drafts: Trying a PPR draft
Nothing ushers in the start of another fantasy football season like a mock draft. It’s all the fun of drafting without any of the commitment. We at PFF have even made it easier to conduct one in a matter of minutes.
Our colleague Mike Castiglione broke down his own standard mock draft a few weeks ago, and I’ll be conducting one with a PPR twist this week. We’ll have 14 teams and 16 roster spots, starting one flex a week. Since it’s my mock draft, I’ll be picking first.
Here’s where I wound up:
And here’s how I got there.
My Pick: Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (1.01)
If this wasn’t PPR, this pick might be different, but after averaging 125 receptions over the past three seasons, this was a no-brainer.
Best Pick: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants (1.06)
Beckham would have been my pick if not for Brown so for him to “slide” to sixth is great value. He has caught close to 90-plus balls and at least 12 touchdowns in each of his first two seasons, despite not playing a full 16 games in either one.
Worst Pick: Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers (1.09)
If 2015 never happened and Nelson were immediately coming off his 98/1,513/12 season from 2014, I could see why he’d be selected in the first round. But 2015 did happen and Nelson did tear his ACL, missing all of last season. Now 31, it’s a risk to take him this high.
My Pick: LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills (2.14)
Some might consider McCoy’s Bills debut season as a failure and, while injuries certainly limited his playing time, they didn’t diminish his skill. He still averaged 4.4 yards per carry and totaled as many receptions (32) as Doug Martin despite playing in four less games.
Best Pick: Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2.07)
After 1,000 receiving yards his rookie year, Evans upped it to 1,200 last year and should continue to build a rapport with young quarterback Jameis Winston. His situation and health is certainly more favorable than receivers taken before Evans such as Alshon Jeffery and Keenan Allen.
Worst Pick: Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers (2.10)
Lacy’s PPR value took a major hit when the Packers re-signed running back James Starks in the offseason. Lacy might come close to eclipsing 1,000 rushing yards but if that’s all he can contribute to your fantasy team, I’ll take my chances with more able, albeit more brittle, pass catchers like McCoy and Martin.
My Pick: T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts (3.01)
Despite the shaky quarterback play in Indianapolis last season (Andrew Luck included), Hilton still churned out a 1,100-yard season. As the top target on a team that hasn’t passed fewer than 37 times a game since 2012, I’ll gladly take Hilton as my second receiver.
Best Pick: Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills (3.09)
Watkins presents a great value this late in the draft. He finished 2015 with the 12th-best yards-per-game average (80.5) among all receivers and the third-best yards-per-catch average (17.5) among receivers with at least 50 catches. He could make a case for being a WR1 and provides excellent insurance for Nelson, drafted by the same team in Round 1.
Worst Pick: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers (3.08)
I don’t mean to say Aaron Rodgers is a bad pick, he’s just not right for this spot. I’d rather have Watkins than Rodgers and he wouldn’t even be the first quarterback I’d take. The dropoff is much greater among the running backs and receivers left, as opposed to the dropoff at quarterback.
My Pick: Ryan Mathews, RB, Philadelphia Eagles (4.14)
Rest assured, the 2016 Eagles will run the ball, and Mathews will get first crack at nailing down the starting job, coming off an extremely effective season in limited action and sporting a 5.0 yards per carry.
Best Pick: C.J. Anderson, RB, Denver Broncos (4.05)
While Denver sorts out its quarterback question, there is little doubt who will be leading the ground game. It’s also rare to get a bell-cow back in the fourth round of fantasy drafts.
Worst Pick: Jeremy Langford, RB, Chicago Bears (4.04)
While Langford might end up being the back to own in Chicago, taking him ahead of a more certain entity like Anderson is ill-advised. Langford sported a 3.6 yards per carry, and the Bears coaches have been open about their willingness to try a committee approach at the position.
We’ll jump ahead a bit to keep this piece reasonable:
My Picks: Travis Kelce, TE (5.01), Theo Riddick, RB (6.14), Carson Palmer, QB (7.01), Josh Gordon, WR (8.14)
Kelce is a top-five tight end option with my core players in place. Plus, with 14 teams, the tight end depth will be weaker across the league. I also took a quarterback in the middle rounds which is either too early or too late based on your own philosophy. I didn’t see too many appealing options after Palmer so I grabbed him to start the seventh. Gordon was a flyer, especially with my flex option secured with Riddick, but he should be the top target in Cleveland after his suspension is complete.
Best Pick: Willie Snead, WR, New Orleans Saints (8.01)
The third-leading target recipient on a pass-first offense this late in the draft? Sign me up. Snead had just over 100 targets last year and finished just shy of 1,000 receiving yards. There are concerns he’ll lose snaps to rookie Michael Thomas, but consider Marques Colston’s 67 targets are up for grabs and there should be plenty of looks to go around.
Worst Pick: Jordan Matthews, WR, Philadelphia Eagles (5.02)
If Chip Kelly were still coaching in Philadelphia, this spot would make perfect sense for slot receiver Matthews, as Kelly preferred three-wide sets. However, Doug Pederson is now coaching and Matthews still projects to man the slot, which will cut into his snaps. I would much rather have the receivers taken after him like Donte Moncrief, Emmanuel Sanders or Eric Decker because at least I know they’ll be on the field.
My Picks: Seahawks Defense (9.01), Phillip Dorsett, WR (10.14), James Starks, RB (11.01), Jason Witten, TE (12.14)
With a bit of a run on defenses, I took the best available to secure my starting lineup. This would be different if your league has an unlimited amount of roster moves and you can truly steam every week. Dorsett is a great value in the 10th round as the Colts are expected to use a lot more three-wide sets with Dorsett starting alongside veterans T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief. Not only is James Starks as good a handcuff as any, he should see several passing downs in his own right and rack up the receptions.
Best Pick: Sammie Coates, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (10.08)
Martavis Bryant’s 92 targets have to go somewhere, and I don’t think they’re going to go to Markus Wheaton. Coates has had an electrifying training camp and, even if he’s the fourth target in the passing game, should see plenty of action to justify his 14th round selection.
Worst Pick: Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants (12.06)
If Cruz returns at all, it’ll be more than a year since suffering a devastating knee injury. He also enters a crowded receiving corps that has seen the emergence of Beckham plus the drafting of Sterling Shepard in the second round. There are better options out there for your bench spots, including Pierre Garcon and the Saints’ Michael Thomas.
My Picks: Joe Flacco, QB (13.01), Wendell Smallwood, RB (14.14), Michael Thomas, WR (NO) (15.01), Blair Walsh, K (16.01)
As previously mentioned, 14 teams can stretch the pool of viable fantasy players and unless your league allows unlimited moves, streaming quarterbacks is much more difficult. I went with Flacco over Jay Cutler because Cutler has the same bye week as my starter (Palmer). Smallwood is a handcuff to possibly the most oft-injured running back in the league so could see plenty of action early. Thomas will be a big part of a pass-first offense and could see significant action. Since kicker points don’t vary nearly as much as other positions, I did save my last pick for one.
Best Pick: Terrance Williams, WR, Dallas Cowboys (15.08)
Despite the drafting of Ezekiel Elliott, you can still expect the Cowboys to pass quite a bit. Williams still stands as the third option in the pass game and possibly the second with Witten continuing his decline.
Worst Pick: Jeff Janis, WR, Green Bay Packers (15.03)
Janis isn’t even assured a roster spot, let alone starting, so taking him in any redraft scenario is ill-advised. What makes this pick worse is that Davante Adams, currently the incumbent for a starting role, was drafted one round later.
Every draft is going to be different, but utilizing mock drafts — and this tool is a great help — can prepare you for various scenarios. For example, I was surprised that T.Y. Hilton, the top target in a pass-happy offense was still there after 28 picks, but now I know that’s a possibility.
I also personally like to get my starters out of the way unless there’s an obvious value. During this mock draft, I didn’t see any and chose to fill out my starting lineup before loading up on high-upside players in good situations. Carson Palmer in the seventh stuck out because not only do I get a top-12 quarterback in the middle rounds but I can now focus on gambles later on. All picks later in the draft are risks and picking one in a favorable location just increases your odds of hitting on one of them.
Here’s the whole draft: (click to enlarge)