Fantasy Football takes up our free time, requires patience, effort, forethought, being wrong (a lot) and commitment so, essentially, it’s the equivalent of being in a serious relationship.
The 2015 Fantasy Football season is over which means Fantasy Football is, as always, cold blooded and breaking up with us once again. What better way to get over a tough break up than by doing something impulsive, regrettable and reactionary, like a Fantasy Football Mock Draft!?
Our first fling of the offseason will be a two round mock draft and we’ll use a non keeper, point per reception format to kick things off. PPR leagues, streaming matchup plays and NFL rules which favor the offense have made it possible to load up on players at the Running Back, Wide Receiver and Tight End position while still allowing for a top 10 Quarterback in any given week. You’re not likely to find your favorite Superman wanna-be QB in this mock.
The offseason will, as always, keep us glued to the NFL drama filled spotlight due to coaching changes, trades, free agent signings and of course, the draft. As each of these events unfold there will be significant impacts to playing time, offensive schemes and ultimately production so we’ll stay consistent with our post breakup meal of choice and be fluid with our scalding hot takes throughout process. For now, however, we can set our opinions and stone and defend them to the death!
There are plenty big names free agents in 2016 but for now, we’ll assume the likes of Kirk Cousins, Doug Martin, Lamar Miller, Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffrey and others are staying put.
2016 Fantasy Football Mock Draft
1.01 Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
As I pointed out in my Week 17 Daily Fantasy Football review, Fantasy Football is Antonio Brown’s world, the rest of us are just living in it. Brown capped off yet another historic season by hauling in 187 yards and a touchdown Sunday, making this the 4th time Brown has eclipsed 175 receiving yards this season, an NFL first. Brown now has back to back years of 1,700 yards from scrimmage, the first wide receiver to accomplish that feat in NFL history, finished the year with the highest grade ever given to a wide receiver by Pro Football Focus and set an NFL record with 265 receptions over the last two seasons. If that’s not enough to convince you, Brown is also the first player in history with back to back seasons of 125 or more catches. Antonio Brown gives us a rare combination of safe, high upside and a low floor. Lock it in.
1.02 Todd Gurley, RB, St. Louis Los Angeles Rams
The only concern anyone could point to regarding Gurley would be that of injury, as Gurley, coming off a gruesome knee injury to end his college career, essentially missed four games this season; missing all of Weeks 1, 2 and 17 while barely playing in Week 3. Gurley will be another year removed from that devastating knee injury in 2016, not that it seemed to bother him whatsoever during his rookie campaign. Per ESPN Stats & Info, Gurley lead the NFL in runs of 40 yards or more with five, ahead of Adrian Peterson and Doug Martin who each had four. Gurley’s 10 rushing touchdowns placed him in a tie with Cam Newton for 2nd in the league, behind Devonta Freeman, Jeremy Hill, Peterson and DeAngelo Williams who each had 11. Gurley also finished 3rd in the league in rushing yards with 1,106, behind only Peterson and Martin. Managing to put up these types of elite numbers while playing less than 60% of the snaps suggests we haven’t yet begun to see what Gurley can produce. If we extrapolate this season’s totals over a full 16 games, we’re drafting a RB with over 1,700 total yards and 13 touchdowns. I’ll take it.
1.03 Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Bell only ranks 3rd on this list for two reasons:
1) Because he’s coming off of major knee surgery after suffering a torn MCL
2) DeAngelo Williams has been so productive in his absence, the argument could be made the Steelers won’t hesitate to lighten the load for Bell somewhat next year.
Bell, regardless of injury is one of the truly elite talents in the league, is only 23 years old and plays in arguably the league’s best offense. If we combine the numbers Bell and DeAngelo Williams put up in 2015 we get a RB who rushed for over 1,400 yards, had over 500 yards receiving, 14 touchdowns and caught 64 passes. Lastly, let’s not forget that in 2014, Bell’s finished with over 2,200 total yards, 83 receptions and double digit touchdowns.
1.04 Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
As impressive as Antonio Brown’s 2015 season was, Julio’s was almost equally as extraordinary. Julio, still just 26 years old, almost doubled what was most WRs would consider a quality season, as he finished his historic run tied with Brown for the league lead in receptions with 136 and lead the NFL in receiving yards with 1,871, both good enough for 2nd in NFL history.
1.05 Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants
Beckham completely rejected the notion of a sophomore slump more so than my body rejects a salad from McDonalds, as he continued to put up elite numbers in his second season. Beckham finished with 1,450 receiving yards, 13 touchdowns on 96 receptions in 15 games, finishing 3rd in points per game in PPR scoring.
1.06 DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans
Hopkins had a breakout campaign in 2015, finishing with 111 receptions, over 1,500 yards and double digit touchdowns. Nuk’s biggest accomplishment this season was in regards to consistency as he exceeded 80 yards 11 different times and had five or more catches in 15 of 16 games. Considering Hopkins caught passes from Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates and Brandon Weeden this season, it’s fair to say DeAndre has the potential to increase his production next year with improvement at the QB position.
1.07 Allen Robinson, WR, Houston Texans
At pick seven, the big guns are off the board and to me this is where the draft becomes interesting. With my first round pick I’m looking at several aspects from a player. Do they offer safety? Robinson didn’t miss a game in his second year. Do they offer a high ceiling? Robinson exceeded 100 yards in six games this season and scored multiple touchdowns three times. Do they offer consistency? Robinson caught at least one touchdown in 10 games in 2016. Do they offer upside? Robinson is just 22 years old and averaged over 17 yards per reception. That number typically declines as receivers become more heavily involved due to an increase in targets and receptions. Arob most likely won’t be drafted this high next season but he probably should be.
1.08 Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
Similar to my take with Allen Robinson, Gronkowski offers relative safety, playing in 15 games in back to back seasons, along with the combination of a high ceiling and upside. In what some would consider a down year for Gronk, he finished the season with enough PPR points to rank 11th at the WR position by scoring double digit touchdowns for the fifth time in six years and exceeding 1,100 receiving yards for the third time in his career. Still just 26 years old, Gronk scored at least one touchdown in nine different contests this season and exceeded 80 yards receiving in nine as well. Gronkowski appears to perform at his best when the offense is clicking on all cylinders. With a full year to repair New England’s suddenly leaky offensive line troubles, there’s no reason to expect Gronk to take a step back, helping you have an edge each week at the TE position.
1.09 David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals
Thank you to Chet Gresham (@Chet_G) for tweeting out the case for using a first round pick when drafting David Johnson next season. “David Johnson finished the season with 161 touches for 1,038 yards and 12 touchdowns.” To put that in perspective, regarding touches, Adrian Peterson lead the NFL in 2015 with 357 and the league leader is generally in the range of 360-450. David Johnson only had 161 and was able to not only produce double digit touchdowns, becoming the first player in the NFL to score a touchdown via a kick return, rush and pass in his first two games. Assuming Johnson sees somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 touches next season, it’s exciting to consider what the final numbers might look like.
1.10 Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings
While Peterson isn’t considered to be a threat in the passing game, at the running back position he finished 2nd in PPR scoring this season. Peterson, regardless of age, has to prove to me that he can’t do it before I predict his decline. He is a cyborg, sent back in time to destroy defenses. In his age 30 season, Peterson lead the NFL in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, again. He shows absolutely no signs of slowing down, as he averaged 4.5 yards per carry, was 2nd in the NFL in runs of 40 yards or more, as he lead the league in carries and total touches. Dude is a beast, plain and simple.
1.11 Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons
Full disclosure, I am not a Freeman fan but given what he did this season, that we’re doing a PPR and not a standard scoring mock, the number of injuries and question marks at the RB position, I hesitantly put Freeman at my number 12 slot in round one. Freeman finished the season with an even 4.0 yards per carry and failed to exceed 3.5 ypc in six of his final seven games this year. What I can’t ignore is Offensive Coordinator, Kyle Shanahan’s preference to use a single back instead of the dreaded running back by committee approach. The Falcons used Freeman as a three down back which, combined with Tevin Coleman’s injuries and fumblitis, enabled Freeman to display his ability in the passing game, hauling in 73 receptions. Freeman ends his sophomore season with over 1,600 total yards and 14 touchdowns and while I fully expect some regression next season, his usage rate, the offensive scheme and his versatility make him difficult to pass on at this point in the draft.
1.12 Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys
I place no stock in what happened in 2015 for Dez Bryant and the Dallas Cowboys and believe it should have zero bearing on where Dez is drafted next season. Coming into the 2015 season, Dez lead the NFL in touchdowns over the course of the previous three seasons with 41 and was coming off three straight seasons of 88 or more receptions and 1,200 or more yards. There is no indication, as of now, that Tony Romo will not be the starting QB for the Cowboys next season, suggesting Dez will simply slide back into his role as the number one playmaker in the NFC East.
2.01 Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Assuming Doug Martin signs a new deal to stay with the Bucs, I’m perfectly comfortable taking him as a high 2nd round pick next season. Martin played all 16 games for the 2nd time in his career and finished with a career high in yards per carry, 4.9. The Dougernaut finished 2nd in the NFL in rushing yards with 1,402 and while Charles Sims has clearly established himself as the passing downs back in Tampa Bay, Martin plays a large enough role to add value there as well, catching over 30 passes and accumulating almost 300 yards in the air.
2.02 Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints
Extrapolate Mark Ingram’s 12 games worth of 2015 statistics into a full year of production and you find yourself with a 2nd round running back who totals over 1,000 yards rushing, over 500 yards receiving, eight touchdowns and most impressively, 66 receptions. Sean Payton will be back, as will Ingram as a borderline number 1 RB.
2.03 Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
Through five games, Jamaal Charles was on pace for another season of over five yards per carry, 1,100 rushing yards and 500 yards receiving. Classic Jamaal Charles. Charles is 29 years old however and is now coming off his 2nd torn ACL. Both Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West have displayed enough ability to steal touches next season and we’ve heard rumblings about why the KC offense opened up and became more productive once Charles went down. All things being equal, I’d be more than happy to end up with Charles in this spot in my draft next season.
2.04 LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills
McCoy is another back who finds himself falling short of expectations this season for Fantasy owners because of injury, as McCoy played in only 12 games and produced one of the lowest total yardage and touchdown totals of his career. That said, McCoy still managed to gain almost 1,200 yards on the ground and through the air and while his TD total was a major disappointment, just three, he added enough value in the passing game, on pace for over 40 receptions before injuring his MCL late in the year, to merit a spot in the 2nd round of this mock draft. Evan Silva tweeted something worth noting however, “LeSean McCoy’s 2015: 4.41 YPC, 3 TDs on 203 carries. Karlos Williams + Mike Gillislee’s 2015: 6.65 YPC, nine TDs on 110 carries.” Looks like I’ll be handcuffing McCoy if I end up with him next season.
2.05 A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Ho-hum… Another under the radar, elite season for A.J. Green. While Green will have the occasional disappearing act throughout the course of the season, there is no arguing the production. Green finished the season with over 80 catches, nearly 1,300 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns. While Tyler Eifert, Jeremy Hill and others seemingly have taken opportunity from Green, he’s still on the cusp of the elite tag at the WR position.
2.06 Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos
My only reason for placing Green ahead of Thomas is because of the uncertainty at the QB position in Denver but I would be thrilled to grab Thomas this late in a PPR draft next season. With over 100 receptions, 1,300 yards and six touchdowns, Thomas once again finds himself as a top 12 WR in PPR for the 4th year in a row.
2.07 Lamar Miller, RB, Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins were a complete disaster this season and still, Miller managed to emerge as one of the top players at the RB position. It’s widely believed Miller will find himself in a new uniform next season, which may ultimately add to his appeal and value, but for now, we’ll assume Miller finds himself in a similar situation. Miller adds value across the board and is versatile enough to fill the stat sheet against difficult matchups, as shown by his productivity in the passing game, 47 receptions for almost 400 yards. Miller scored double digit TDs this season for the first time in his career while averaging over four yards per carry for 4th straight season.
2.08 Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears
2015 was a disappointing one for the Chicago Bears and Alshon, as the 25 year old seemed poised for a monster campaign after the departure of Brandon Marshall and the injury to Kevin White. Jay Cutler is absolutely terrible so it was reasonable to expect he would spend the majority of the season forcing the ball to Jeffrey, but he was hampered by injuries most of the season and his worst season since his rookie campaign. Well healthy however, Alshon was his usual dominant self, recording 75 or more receiving yards in seven of his nine games. Alshon offers upside and consistency when healthy and has produced at an elite level with another productive WR next to him in the past so don’t hesitate to use a late 2nd on him next season.
2.09 Brandon Marshall, WR, New York Jets
Alshon’s old running mate in Chicago, Marshall, had one of the best seasons of his career in 2015 at age 31. Marshall was absolutely fantastic this season, eclipsing 100 receptions, 1,500 receiving yards and double digit touchdowns (14). My only concern with Marshall is at the QB position for the Jets. The coaching staff seemed insistent on starting Geno Smith to begin the season but thankfully, for Fantasy Football owners, he’s a moron and picked a fight with largest man on the team, allowing the slant king, Ryan Fitzpatrick an opportunity. If Fitzmagic is at the helm next season I could see taking Marshall earlier than this but for now, we’ll leave him at the end of round two.
2.10 Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Los Angeles Raiders
The end of the 2nd round is where you have to set the trend for the upcoming wrap around and start thinking about “your guys”, the players you think you might be taking a bit early but if they hit, could change your season and give you a huge advantage. Amari Cooper is one of those players for me. Cooper exceeded 70 yards receiving seven times during his rookie season, finishing the year with over 70 receptions, 1,000 yards and almost 15 yards per catch. Cooper is a special talent who should continue to build a strong rapport with Derek Carr. The upside here is enormous.
2.11 Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Los Angeles Chargers
Allen was on pace for a monster season in PPR leagues before going on IR after eight games. If we take Allen’s numbers over his eight games and double them, we see he was on pace for 134 receptions, 1,450 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. While I don’t see that level of production next season, even just 75 percent of those totals would give Allen a season of 100 or more receptions with over 1,000 yards. Lastly, Allen is still just 23 years old and while I have personal issues with Philip Rivers as a mustache wearer and Fantasy QB, there’s no denying he’s more than capable of filling up the stat sheet for Allen owners next year.
2.12 Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans Saints
I’m tempted to place Cooks above both Cooper and Allen after his 2015 breakout. The only reason to keep Cooks out of top 24 pick consideration, especially in a PPR league, revolved around Head Coach, Sean Payton and the health of Quarterback, Drew Brees. We now know for certain Coach Payton will be returning to the Saints for the 2016 season and there’s no reason to question whether or not the offseason will give Brees ample time to heal from a foot injury suffered late in the year. Cooks demonstrated in the second half he can be, or may already be, elite, hauling in 8 of his 9 touchdowns in his final 9 games. His 84 receptions and over 1,100 yards in just his age 22 season puts him in rare company. Lastly, while the Saints may add depth in free agency or the draft, as of now the only notable pass catchers (competition) on New Orleans are Willie Snead and Marques Colston. Not much to worry about.
Honorable Mention: Jarvis Landry, Cam Newton, Matt Forte, Larry Fitzgerald, Doug Baldwin, Jordy Nelson, Russell Wilson, Brandin Cooks, Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Eddie Lacy
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