When they're not being sabotaged, mock drafts can be a useful tool ahead of your fantasy football draft.
They're a great time to tinker with draft plans and figure out what some other owners might be thinking. Is that player you covet getting taken a little early? Maybe he's getting taken late—a possible sign that you're overrating him.
It's important to at least go into your mocks with a set plan in mind, otherwise you don't really have a means by which to judge what's going on.
Below are brief strategies and player rankings for the four main offensive positions in a standard league. The rankings are completely subjective and done by yours truly, so they're far from any kind of irrefutable standard.
|1||Peyton Manning||Denver Broncos|
|2||Drew Brees||New Orleans Saints|
|3||Aaron Rodgers||Green Bay Packers|
|4||Matthew Stafford||Detroit Lions|
|5||Andrew Luck||Indianapolis Colts|
|6||Nick Foles||Philadelphia Eagles|
|7||Robert Griffin III||Washington Redskins|
|8||Cam Newton||Carolina Panthers|
|9||Matt Ryan||Atlanta Falcons|
|10||Colin Kaepernick||San Francisco 49ers|
A mock draft will be the perfect way to figure out what you want to do with your quarterback. The position is extremely deep, but ESPN.com's Matthew Berry made the case that reaching for a top QB could bring a major return:
Going back to the study of playoff teams in ESPN standard leagues over the last two years, they got, on average, 19 percent of their weekly scoring from the quarterback position. This percentage was the highest of any one slot. Now, we also know that playoff teams averaged 1,234 points in the first 13 weeks. So if a QB scores 19 percent of your total, that means you need 235 points from your starting QB and your bye week fill-in in the fantasy regular season. Assuming your bye-week replacement gets your 15 points (your average Matt Ryan/Alex Smith performances last season), you're looking for 220 in 12 weeks out of your starter, or 18.3 points per week.
According to Berry, only four QBs reached that threshold. He only included starters "that you felt comfortable starting in at least eight games," so Nick Foles was excluded.
Of course, it's possible to win your league without Peyton Manning, Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers in your lineup. Matt Ryan, Jay Cutler, Andy Dalton and Philip Rivers all offer good value lower down the rankings.
Doing a few mocks might give you a better idea of which guys are going in which rounds. Maybe there's a run on QBs that you want to get ahead of early. Maybe guys like Ryan, Cutler and Rivers fall to a late round, allowing you to address other positions of need first but still get a talented quarterback.
If you're going to do a mock draft, you're better off taking quarterbacks later. You have a general idea of when the top three or four guys will be taken. You should use this opportunity to see when the lower guys are taken off the board.
|Running Back Rankings|
|1||LeSean McCoy||Philadelphia Eagles|
|2||Adrian Peterson||Minnesota Vikings|
|3||Jamaal Charles||Kansas City Chiefs|
|4||Matt Forte||Chicago Bears|
|5||Eddie Lacy||Green Bay Packers|
|6||Le'Veon Bell||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|7||DeMarco Murray||Dallas Cowboys|
|8||Marshawn Lynch||Seattle Seahawks|
|9||Montee Ball||Denver Broncos|
|10||Arian Foster||Houston Texans|
If you're picking near the end of the first round, maybe you could consider grabbing Manning or Calvin Johnson. Otherwise, stick to the tried and true strategy of drafting a running back in the first round. Nothing will help your fantasy team more than having a stud running back.
The fun will be in finding your second and third RB options.
Many will be hyping up second-year backs like Montee Ball, Le'Veon Bell, Giovani Bernard and Eddie Lacy.
However, Rotoworld's Adam Levitan looked at the last 33 running backs who rushed for 600 yards in their rookie seasons. Twenty-two of those 33 saw a drop in yardage from Year 1 to Year 2. Levitan chalks most of that up to "simple regression to the mean," and the 11 who improved were in general a class above the rest talent-wise, thus statistical outliers.
Be careful when eying up one of the top sophomore RBs. Of the four listed above, Ball looks best positioned to see improvement in his numbers. With Knowshon Moreno in Miami, he's bound to get more looks out of the backfield.
Improving as a blocker will also help Ball stay on the field in passing situations, possibly increasing his value.
"I don't think I was good. I didn't do well today, but I am challenging myself," Ball said of going up against Danny Trevathan and Nate Irving during blocking drills at training camp, per Troy E. Renck of The Denver Post. "It's going to make me better. After practice, I am going to watch the film to see what I need to do to improve."
It will be worth monitoring when the second-year RBs come off the board. The four mentioned above are worth selecting but make sure you're not reaching for them.
|Wide Receiver Rankings|
|1||Calvin Johnson||Detroit Lions|
|2||Demaryius Thomas||Denver Broncos|
|3||A.J. Green||Cincinnati Bengals|
|4||Dez Bryant||Dallas Cowboys|
|5||Julio Jones||Atlanta Falcons|
|6||Brandon Marshall||Chicago Bears|
|7||Antonio Brown||Pittsburgh Steelers|
|8||Pierre Garcon||Washington Redskins|
|9||Jordy Nelson||Green Bay Packers|
|10||Alshon Jeffery||Chicago Bears|
Of the four positions listed, wide receiver is one of the most intriguing.
Let's get the easy stuff out of the way: If you're in a standard 12-team mock draft, Megatron is the only wideout you take in the first round. Nobody else is worth taking over a top running back or even a QB like Manning or Brees.
The second, third and fourth rounds will be when you want to load up on wideouts. For the most part, by the time the fourth round is over, you'll have one running back and one quarterback with two wide receivers.
Exceptions could be made. As a rule of thumb, value takes precedence over necessity if there's one player who's inexplicably dropped. That gives you flexibility after the draft to move that player around to strengthen other positions.
In a perfect world, you can grab a top-tier WR like A.J. Green, Dez Bryant or Brandon Marshall in the second round and then turn right around and select somebody slightly lower down the totem pole like Jordy Nelson, DeSean Jackson, Keenan Allen or Pierre Garcon.
|Tight End Rankings|
|1||Jimmy Graham||New Orleans Saints|
|2||Julius Thomas||Denver Broncos|
|3||Vernon Davis||San Francisco 49ers|
|4||Rob Gronkowski||New England Patriots|
|5||Jordan Cameron||Cleveland Browns|
|6||Jason Witten||Dallas Cowboys|
|7||Dennis Pitta||Baltimore Ravens|
|8||Greg Olsen||Carolina Panthers|
|9||Charles Clay||Miami Dolphins|
|10||Kyle Rudolph||Minnesota Vikings|
Tight end should be the last offensive position you seriously address before adding bench players. Let someone else overvalue Jimmy Graham, Julius Thomas and Rob Gronkowski in the third round.
You do, however, want to avoid a run on the position. The fifth round would be a great time to start focusing on tight ends. Solid options like Greg Olsen, Kyle Rudolph, Dennis Pitta, Jordan Reed and Charles Clay should remain available.
As long as you can load up on the other positions, you'll be able to live without having a premier tight end.
According to ESPN.com, the Nos. 4-12 fantasy tight ends averaged 108.8 points. The difference between Tony Gonzalez (129) and and Delanie Walker (87) was 42 points. Comparing that to other positions, 109 points was equal to the 28th-best running back (C.J. Spiller) and 32nd-best wide receiver (Cordarrelle Patterson).
Maybe if you do a few mock drafts and determine that guys are taking tight ends really early, you could change your strategy. Otherwise, go ahead and be patient.