On Monday, I participated in my third live mock draft of the summer (12 teams/standard-scoring rules), drawing the No. 10 slot.
Here are the first 48 picks from Monday's simulation (with 60 seconds between picks):
(For a complete breakdown of my squad, click here.)
1. RB Arian Foster, Texans
2. QB Aaron Rodgers, Packers
3. QB Tom Brady, Patriots
4. WR Calvin Johnson, Lions
5. RB LeSean McCoy, Eagles
6. QB Drew Brees, Saints
7. RB Ray Rice, Ravens
8. RB Chris Johnson, Titans
9. RB Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars
10. RB Ryan Mathews, Chargers (my pick)
11. WR Roddy White, Falcons
12. QB Matthew Stafford, Lions
- I have no disagreement with the order of the first three running backs—Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy, Ray Rice—even though I'd probably go McCoy, Foster and Rice in standard-scoring drafts. Bottom line: As superstars go, it really doesn't matter which asset you end up with high in Round 1; just ride that gut feeling into the crucial swing picks for Rounds 2 and 3.
- I didn't love the selection of Tom Brady at No. 3 overall, but that owner balanced it out with a Marshawn Lynch coup in Round 2 (22nd pick). Lynch (1,416 total yards, 13 TDs) scored a touchdown in 10 straight weeks last season, a remarkable feat given in light of Seattle QB Tarvaris Jackson averaging 32.14 passes in 2011.
- If there is a no-man's land for Round 1, it might be the 10th and 11th slots. But there is an upside here: With Matt Forte embroiled in a contract dispute with Bears management and Darren McFadden inexplicably saddled with a Round 2 grade, tailback-focused owners should have their pick of Ryan Mathews, Forte or McFadden at picks 10 and 15. And as a wonderful fallback option, Detroit QB Matthew Stafford might be available at both selections.
13. WR Wes Welker, Patriots
14. TE Jimmy Graham, Saints
15. RB Matt Forte, Bears (my pick)
16. WR Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
17. WR Andre Johnson, Texans
18. TE Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
19. RB DeMarco Murray, Cowboys
20. QB Cam Newton, Panthers
21. WR Greg Jennings, Packers
22. RB Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
23. RB Darren McFadden, Raiders
24. WR Mike Wallace, Steelers
- I honestly don't have a problem with any pick from Round 2. If anything, I'm very jealous of the values for Cam Newton (20) and Darren McFadden (23).
25. RB Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
26. RB Trent Richardson, Browns
27. WR Hakeem Nicks, Giants
28. WR A.J. Green, Bengals
29. RB Adrian Peterson, Vikings
30. WR Julio Jones, Falcons
31. RB Fred Jackson, Bills
32. QB Michael Vick, Eagles
33. RB Steven Jackson, Rams
34. RB Frank Gore, 49ers (my pick)
35. RB Michael Turner, Falcons
36. WR Brandon Marshall, Bears
- On pure talent alone, Jamaal Charles is a Round 1 fixture, but some owners may be skittish to reach for him on draft day, citing his ACL tear in Week 2 against Detroit last year, while also wondering how RB Peyton Hillis (free-agent acquisition) might cut into Charles' rushing and receiving attempts. Bottom line: If you believe Charles (1,935 total yards, eight TDs in 2010) can quickly recapture his old speed, quickness and explosion, you'll be happy to invest a Round 3 pick.
- While the Rams sort out their huddled mass of receiving candidates—it's anyone's guess for Nos. 1 through 6 on the depth chart—they'll ultimately lean on Steven Jackson (1,478 total yards, six TDs last year) for another season. And why wouldn't they do that? Jackson is easily their most reliable weapon in the red zone. He'd also be a good bet for 50 catches, if the Rams chose to prioritize him in the passing game. Targets: 1,421 total yards and seven touchdowns.
- For what it's worth, Julio Jones (54 catches, 959 yards, 8 TDs last year) had better (or commensurate) rookie numbers than Calvin Johnson (48 catches, 756 yards, 4 TDs in 2007), Larry Fitzgerald (58 catches, 780 yards, 8 TDs in 2004), Andre Johnson (66 catches, 976 yards, 4 TDs in 2003) and even Jerry Rice (49 catches, 927 yards, 3 TDs), the greatest receiver in NFL history. Oh, and Julio accomplished all this in just 13 games last season.
- For a third straight mock draft, Trent Richardson was taken at No. 26 overall. Which begs the question: How many times must this pick repeat itself before things get spooky?
37. RB Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants
38. WR Dez Bryant, Cowboys
39. RB Roy Helu, Redskins (my pick)
40. QB Eli Manning, Giants
41. RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Bengals
42. RB Darren Sproles, Saints
43. WR Victor Cruz, Giants
44. WR Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers
45. RB Isaac Redman, Steelers
46. WR Jordy Nelson, Packers
47. WR Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
48. WR Steve Smith, Panthers
- No fantasy expert saw Steve Smith's 2011 resurgence (79 catches, 1,394 yards, seven TDs) coming last summer, just like no one should expect a drop-off in production this season, barring injury. That's the confidence that comes with having Cam Newton at quarterback and Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert running the ball. Simply put, the Panthers are stacked for 2012, but they should still rely on Smith for at least 72 catches, 1,175 yards and seven TDs.
- Dwayne Bowe (81 catches, 1,159 yards, 5 TDs, 142 targets last year) has been remarkably consistent in targets, catches and receiving yards the last two seasons. The only wild momentum swing lies with touchdowns; and Bowe is a better bet for 15 touchdowns than five this season.
- Isaac Redman at 45 is too rich for my blood (especially ahead of Jordy Nelson); but then again, I'm partly responsible for Ike's draft uptick, after going RB-RB-RB-RB with the first four picks. That move artificially boosted the value of second- and third-tier tailbacks.
Jay Clemons can be reached on Twitter, day or night, at @ATL_JayClemons.