Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Simulating Every Round
It's almost here!
One week from today, the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks will kick off the 2014 NFL season with a rematch of the infamous "Fail Mary" game.
That game will also mark the beginning of another fantasy football campaign, which means there's but one big weekend of fantasy drafts left to go.
For those wise owners who waited to draft (nothing kills the fun in fantasy football like a big injury before the season even starts), these last couple of days provide a final opportunity to get some last-minute research done before the big day.
A big part of that research is analyzing and participating in mock drafts, in an effort to divine where players are being selected and where the value picks lie.
We've got you covered in that regard, with this 12-team, 14-round mock draft.
This mock draft is for a standard scoring league with a starting lineup consisting of one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, one tight end, one kicker, one team defense and a "flex" player (RB/WR/TE).
The draft was generated using the Draft Wizard at Fantasy Pros, with the author picking from a randomly generated position of 12th.
Now that the rules are out of the way, let's light this candle!
Round 1: Running Backs Rule the Roost
- LeSean McCoy, RB, PHI
- Jamaal Charles, RB, KC
- Matt Forte, RB, CHI
- Adrian Peterson, RB, MIN
- Eddie Lacy, RB, GB
- Peyton Manning, QB, DEN
- Calvin Johnson, WR, DET
- Dez Bryant, WR, DAL
- Jimmy Graham, TE, NO
- Demaryius Thomas, WR, DEN
- Marshawn Lynch, RB, SEA
- DeMarco Murray, RB, DAL
The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same
In today's age of running back committees and pass-happy offenses, many fantasy pundits have bemoaned the downfall of running backs as the kings of fantasy football.
Still, without the benefit of PPR to bolster the value of wideouts, the first round of this draft belonged to the backfield, with running backs making up seven of the first 12 picks.
Biggest Value: Adrian Peterson
There may be some dissension about which order they should be slotted in, but there's little argument that this year's top-four backs are LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte and Peterson.
Getting any of that quartet is a fine way to start a draft. Getting Peterson at the tail end of the group, in a standard scoring format and in Norv Turner's offense, is a bargain.
Biggest Reach: Peyton Manning
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Given the depth at quarterback in fantasy drafts this year, spending a first-round pick on Manning is nuts. It digs a hole at running back and/or receiver, and in order to justify that investment, Manning has to come close to last year's record-setting season.
The last two times a quarterback broke the single-season touchdown record (Tom Brady in 2007 and Manning in 2004), that didn't come close to happening.
My Pick: DeMarco Murray
My first-round strategy this year is fairly simple. If I'm picking in the back half of the round and can't get Jimmy Graham, odds are the pick is going to be a running back.
With no PPR and the ability to start three running backs, getting "bell cows" who don't face any real competition for touches is big. Murray fits that bill, and the fourth-year pro should be in for a big year in a Dallas offense that's going to have to score in bunches to keep the team in games.
Round 2: The Run Continues
- Montee Ball, RB, DEN
- Arian Foster, RB, HOU
- A.J. Green, WR, CIN
- Drew Brees, QB, NO
- Brandon Marshall, WR, CHI
- Julio Jones, WR, ATL
- Doug Martin, RB, TB
- Rob Gronkowski, TE, NE
- Giovani Bernard, RB, CIN
- Alfred Morris, RB, WAS
- Le'Veon Bell, RB, PIT
- Aaron Rodgers, QB, GB
So, about the idea of getting cute in your fantasy draft this year and taking wide receivers with your first two picks.
Granted, the scoring in this league has something to do with it (know your league's scoring, folks—it's important), but just as in the first round, running backs ruled Round 2 with six players chosen.
The pool of talent in the backfield dries up quickly this year.
Biggest Value: Alfred Morris
You would think, given his fading fantasy stock this year, that Morris stunk up the joint a year ago instead of gaining over 1,200 yards on the ground for a Washington offense that flat-out sucked.
Yes, the Redskins added to the passing game this year, and Morris is hardly a threat to make an impact catching the ball. However, there's no PPR here. If you've seen the Redskins at all this preseason, you know they're going to be leaning heavily on Morris until that aerial attack gets off the ground.
Biggest Reach: Drew Brees
Time to beat the horse again. Poor dead horsey.
This has nothing to do with Brees himself. He's obviously a phenomenal talent, and the consistency he's shown in recent years is why he's my top-ranked fantasy signal-caller this year.
Still, the advantage that Brees will give you over other quarterbacks isn't worth the disadvantage you'll find yourself in elsewhere.
Positional scarcity really isn't that complicated a concept, and yet every year fantasy owners ignore it and gleefully shoot themselves in the foot by reaching for "elite" passers.
My Pick: Montee Ball
I've done enough drafts this year (both real and mock) to know just how quickly the other vultures in a league will pick the carcass clean in the backfield.
Given the long gap between my picks, it makes more sense to roll the dice on Ball's upside in Denver's offensive juggernaut and look for value at a much deeper wide receiver spot later than the other way around.
Besides, I'm a traditionalist. As much as people would like to pretend it ain't so, fantasy leagues are still won and lost by running backs. Last year's Backpocalypse (half the top 10 backs drafted last year were major busts) has given many fantasy owners the willies about going RB/RB early.
Use their fear to your advantage.
Round 3: Here Come the Receivers
- Jordy Nelson, WR, GB
- Alshon Jeffery, WR, CHI
- Victor Cruz, WR, NYG
- Antonio Brown, WR, PIT
- Zac Stacy, RB, STL
- Julius Thomas, TE, DEN
- Andre Ellington, RB, AZ
- Randall Cobb, WR, GB
- Larry Fitzgerald, WR, AZ
- Keenan Allen, WR, SD
- Reggie Bush, RB, DET
- Andre Johnson, WR, HOU
The Wideouts Cometh
It stood to reason that given how hard the running backs were hit in the first two rounds, a big run was looming at the wide receiver position.
Sure enough, the first four picks of the third round were wideouts, with seven of the 12 players selected in Round 3 hailing from that position.
Biggest Value: Zac Stacy
After making what some may have considered a reach by picking New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski in Round 2, the team picking fifth needed to find a value at running back.
The fantasy gods delivered. It's been an eventful offseason for Stacy, who's been looking over his shoulder at first rookie Tre Mason and now Benny Cunningham, who surprisingly started the Rams' third preseason game.
Still, Stacy remains the lead back for a St. Louis team that just lost quarterback Sam Bradford for the season, leading one to believe that much like last year, the Rams will lean heavily on the second-year pro in 2014.
Biggest Reach: Victor Cruz
This has very little to do with Cruz the player and everything to do with his situation this year.
In 2013, a faltering Giants offense led to Cruz failing to hit the 1,000-yard mark for the first time since his rookie season.
If the exhibition season has been any indication, quarterback Eli Manning and the New York offense may actually be worse this year. That doesn't bode well at all for Cruz's fantasy prospects in 2014.
My Pick: Andre Johnson
Going running back with my first two picks looks a whole lot better now.
Yes, Johnson's well on the wrong side of 30. Yes, no one is going to confuse Houston quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick with Peyton Manning, well, ever.
Still, Johnson caught over 100 passes and topped 1,400 yards in 2013 with Matt Schaub, Case Keenum and Joe the nachos vendor at quarterback.
So long as he's healthy, Johnson will get his.
Round 4: The Scraping Begins
- Toby Gerhart, RB, JAX
- Andrew Luck, QB, IND
- C.J. Spiller, RB, BUF
- Vincent Jackson, WR, TB
- Rashad Jennings, RB, NYG
- Pierre Garcon, WR, WAS
- Frank Gore, RB, SF
- Michael Crabtree, WR, SF
- Roddy White, WR, ATL
- Michael Floyd, WR, AZ
- Wes Welker, WR, DEN
- Ryan Mathews, RB, SD
It's Getting Pretty Dry Over Here!
The wide receiver run carried over into Round 4, with half a dozen players from that spot selected.
However, the real story in the fourth round lies once again in the backfield. We're only 48 picks into the draft, and already the ball-carriers who could reasonably be called every-week starters have just about dried up.
Biggest Value: Roddy White
The 2013 season is one the Atlanta Falcons and wide receiver Roddy White would like to forget. The Falcons won all of four games, and an ankle injury limited White to his worst statistical output since 2006.
Still, prior to last year the 32-year-old posted six straight seasons with at least 80 catches, 1,100 yards and six touchdowns.
With a suspect run game and defense, the Falcons are going to have to throw the ball to win games. White will be one of the main beneficiaries of that pass-centric offense, and he's a great value in Round 4.
Biggest Reach: Wes Welker
Yes, a computer picking using ADP can't be expected to know the latest injury news, but this should still serve as a lesson in being prepared for your fantasy draft.
Sure, as Troy Renck of The Denver Post reports, there's a chance that Welker will be ready to go for Denver's season opener against the Indianapolis Colts, but the concussion Welker suffered last week was his third in less than a year.
If that isn't enough reason to be concerned about Welker's fantasy prospects, consider this. The 33-year-old's yardage and reception totals in 2013 were his lowest since 2006, and only a career-high 10 touchdowns salvaged his fantasy campaign.
My Pick: Toby Gerhart
Yes, a third running back in my first four picks.
It's far from a crazy pick. Given that you can start three backs in this league and the lack of PPR, running backs who appear slated for 300-plus touches in 2014 get a bump in value.
With the addition of Gerhart, my team now has a trio of those backs. Assuming they pan out, it's a strong foundation of steady fantasy production to build around.
Round 5: Get While the Getting's...Average?
- Vernon Davis, TE, SF
- Bishop Sankey, RB, TEN
- Chris Johnson, RB, NYJ
- Matthew Stafford, QB, DET
- Joique Bell, RB, DET
- DeSean Jackson, WR, WAS
- Shane Vereen, RB, NE
- Fred Jackson, RB, BUF
- Ray Rice, RB, BAL
- Ben Tate, RB, CLE
- Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, MIN
- Torrey Smith, WR, BAL
Baby's Got Backs
If there's a moral to be taken from this mock draft, it's this:
If you don't have two running backs by the end of the fifth round, you're probably in trouble, at least in standard scoring formats.
The fifth round brought with it another run in the backfield. Seven of the 12 picks in Round 5 were running backs, including four in a row in the round's second half.
Biggest Value: Chris Johnson
The backs taken in the fifth round ran the gamut from third-down backs (Shane Vereen) to committee guys (Fred Jackson, Joique Bell), with a suspended Ray Rice thrown in for good measure.
The second back taken in the round was the best value of the bunch.
The days of "CJ2K" may be over, but a lot of fantasy owners are being a bit hasty in writing off Chris Johnson.
Jets linebacker David Harris told Mark Cannizzaro of the New York Post, "Oh yeah, he still has it... We noticed it the first day when we were in Cortland. He’s still the fastest guy on the field. He’s still got a lot of juice in those legs."
The seventh-year pro is running as the lead back for a Jets team that's going to pound away on the ground a lot. Johnson looked pretty good in the preseason, and the next time the 28-year-old finishes outside the top 20 fantasy options at his position will be the first time.
Biggest Reach: Bishop Sankey
Entering this summer, Bishop Sankey was widely regarded as the top rookie running back in fantasy football, at least in redraft leagues.
After all, the only thing standing between Sankey and the role of lead back was the eminently underwhelming Shonn Greene.
Well, someone forgot to tell Greene, who held Sankey off in training camp and will open the season as the starter behind a stout Titans O-line.
This isn't to say that Sankey won't unseat Greene at some point this season, but a fifth-round pick is a big investment in a "maybe" back, especially given the other options that were available.
My Pick: Torrey Smith
I will freely admit that the idea of trusting Smith as a weekly starter does not inspire the warm and fuzzies, even after the 25-year-old set a career high with 1,128 receiving yards a year ago.
With that said, Smith's just coming into his prime, the addition of Steve Smith and the return of Dennis Pitta should draw some coverage off Smith, and his role as a deep threat suits standard scoring formats better than point-per-reception leagues.
After loading up in the backfield early, Smith's not a bad WR2, even if he isn't a great one, either.
Round 6: NOW You Draft a Quarterback
- Jordan Cameron, TE, CLE
- Jason Witten, TE, DAL
- Tom Brady, QB, NE
- Trent Richardson, RB, IND
- Jay Cutler, QB, CHI
- Matt Ryan, QB, ATL
- Percy Harvin, WR, SEA
- Jeremy Maclin, WR, PHI
- Julian Edelman, WR, NE
- Colin Kaepernick, QB, SF
- Cam Newton, QB, CAR
- T.Y. Hilton, WR, IND
It's a Quarterback-Driven League
At least in the NFL. Fantasy football is another story, but it's a good bet that after the "elite" options are overdrafted, around the fifth or sixth round you'll see the first big run at the position.
Sure enough, beginning (surprisingly) with Tom Brady of the Patriots at 6.03, five signal-callers were chosen in Round 6, easily the highest number of any position.
Biggest Value: Jordan Cameron
Granted, if you saw any of the Cleveland Browns preseason games, you probably find it pretty hard to get excited about any of their offensive players.
However, with Josh Gordon suspended for the entire 2014 season, the fact remains that someone is going to have to catch passes for the Browns this year.
With Gordon sidelined, Cameron becomes the team's defacto No. 1 receiver.
Cameron ranked fourth among fantasy tight ends in this scoring a year ago, and there's a real chance the third-year pro will better that performance this season.
He's going to get targeted a ton.
Biggest Reach: Colin Kaepernick
On some levels, Kaepernick is a player who just oozes fantasy upside. The rocket right arm. The ability to pick up yardage (and fantasy points) with his legs.
Were things to break the right way, a top-five fantasy finish isn't out of the question.
The problem is between a run-first San Francisco offense that has looked absolutely dreadful in the preseason and Kaepernick's tendency to be consistently inconsistent, the odds of things breaking the right way aren't good.
In fact, there's a better chance that Kaepernick finishes outside the top 15 than inside that top five.
My Pick: Cameron
Elite tight end upside a round after Vernon Davis and nearly four rounds after Rob Gronkowski?
Round 7: ANOTHER Run at Running Back
- Emmanuel Sanders, WR, DEN
- Lamar Miller, RB, MIA
- Stevan Ridley, RB, NE
- Danny Woodhead, RB, SD
- Tony Romo, QB, DAL
- Steven Jackson, RB, ATL
- Terrance West, RB, CLE
- DeAngelo Williams, RB, CAR
- Golden Tate, WR, DET
- Pierre Thomas, RB, NO
- Mike Wallace, WR, MIA
- Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, OAK
You're Kidding, Right?
Want to see another example of why waiting at the running back spot is playing with fire in 2014?
The seventh round of this draft, which wraps up the first half, brought with it another long run in the backfield. At one point, six of seven picks were running backs.
Now look at those backs and ask yourself this question:
How many would you be at all comfortable starting on a weekly basis?
Biggest Value: Emmanuel Sanders
The seventh round may have been all about running backs, but a wide receiver was the steal of the round.
If Wes Welker's latest concussion had his fantasy owners reaching for the tequila, Sanders' fantasy owners were reaching for the champagne.
They were guzzling it after Sanders posted five catches for 128 yards and two touchdowns against the Houston Texans after Welker got hurt.
That ridiculous production isn't sustainable, but if Welker is sidelined for any length of time this year, Sanders is going to annihilate this draft slot.
My Pick: Maurice Jones-Drew
You can never have too many running backs in fantasy football.
That's a mantra of mine, and after watching even the clearance table get hit hard in Round 7, that mantra motivated me to address the position again, despite not having a starting quarterback yet.
It's folly to expect Jones-Drew to come close to recapturing past glories in Oakland this year, partly because of the presence of Darren McFadden.
Mostly, it's because the Raiders are terrible.
However, Jones-Drew looked healthy in the preseason and showed good burst in reeling off a 40-yard touchdown run against the Green Bay Packers last week.
So long as he's healthy, Jones-Drew should at least serve as solid depth or a bye-week fill-in this year, and his value will go up as soon as McFadden succumbs to his annual injury.
You know it's going to happen. Just a matter of when.
Round 8: Madness Reigns
- Nick Foles, QB, PHI
- Seattle Seahawks D/ST
- Bernard Pierce, RB, BAL
- San Francisco 49ers D/ST
- Greg Olsen, TE, CAR
- Carlos Hyde, RB, SF
- Carolina Panthers D/ST
- Eric Decker, WR, NYJ
- Kyle Rudolph, TE, MIN
- Knowshon Moreno, RB, MIA
- Darren Sproles, RB, PHI
- Denver Broncos D/ST
Don't Take the Bait
The eighth round of this mock draft brought with it a circumstance that may have been borne of computer autopicks, but it also affords an opportunity to make an important point.
Don't let yourself get pulled out of your draft-day plan and into a position run unnecessarily. Panic picks are bad picks.
This isn't to say that you shouldn't be flexible while drafting (it's crucial), but reaching for a team defense just because three other teams just took one isn't going to get your fantasy team any closer to a championship.
Biggest Value: Knowshon Moreno
Early picks may generate all the hype in fantasy football, but it's the middle rounds where leagues are won and lost.
And in that respect, getting Knowshon Moreno in the eighth round is a huge steal.
Moreno had a disastrous offseason and currently finds himself behind Lamar Miller on the Dolphins' depth chart, but with 64 yards on 10 carries in his Miami debut, Moreno showed something that had been missing on South Beach to this point in 2014.
The ability to effectively run the ball.
Moreno isn't going to be playing second fiddle for long, and while Moreno isn't going to match last year's top-five season with his new team, even RB2 numbers would be a bargain here.
If Moreno could creep higher?
Well, those are the sorts of picks that win leagues.
My Pick: Nick Foles
Remember what I said about waiting at the quarterback position?
Well, here we sit. My team is four deep at running back (including three "bell cows"). My starting wide receivers and tight end are in place.
And yet in Foles I was able to acquire a player who trailed only Peyton Manning and Drew Brees in terms of fantasy points per game in this scoring last year.
The value at the quarterback position in 2014 lies with patience.
Round 9: The Theme Is That There Is No Theme
- Darren McFadden, RB, OAK
- Dennis Pitta, TE, BAL
- Jordan Reed, TE, WAS
- Mark Ingram, RB, NO
- Devonta Freeman, RB, ATL
- Reggie Wayne, WR, IND
- Martellus Bennett, TE, CHI
- Chris Ivory, RB, NYJ
- Andre Williams, RB, NYG
- Zach Ertz, TE, PHI
- Kendall Wright, WR, TEN
- Marques Colston, WR, NO
Hope at Tight End
By this point in the draft, the paths of drafters begin heading in all sorts of directions. Some teams have already filled their starting lineups and are looking for depth and upside plays.
The teams that waited until Round 9 to draft a starting tight end had to feel pretty good about how things turned out, as a quartet of players who possess more than a little fantasy upside were taken at that position in the round.
The last one is especially interesting. Zach Ertz of the Eagles is a trendy breakout pick in fantasy circles, and the second-year pro did nothing to dissipate that hype by hauling eight passes for 110 yards and a score over the preseason's first three weeks.
Biggest Value: Reggie Wayne
This wasn't a draft pick. It was grand larceny.
Yes, Reggie Wayne turns 36 later this year. Yes, he's coming off a torn ACL.
But, we're also talking about a receiver who topped 100 catches two years ago. Wayne was on a top-15 fantasy pace last year before hurting his knee.
Oh, and if you've seen much of Trent Richardson "running" the ball this preseason, you know that the Colts are going to be airing it out early and often in 2014.
Biggest Reach: Darren McFadden
Chasing last year's production is a fantasy foot-pitfall that we've all fallen prey to at one time or another.
McFadden is a completely different brand of lunacy.
McFadden has had one big year, and that was back in 2010. Fantasy owners have been chasing that year ever since.
They chased it through three injury-marred seasons in a row. They chased it despite the fact that McFadden has averaged a whopping 3.3 yards per carry each of the past two years.
Stop chasing it. It's gone.
My Pick: Marques Colston
Getting Reggie Wayne here would have been the gift to end all gifts. But as we all know, no fantasy draft is complete without some disappointment thrown in.
Still, Colston isn't a bad consolation prize.
At 31, Colston isn't the player he once was, and last year marked only the second time that Colston has failed to top the 1,000-yard mark.
Of course, last year marked only the second time that Colston has failed to top the 1,000-yard mark, and he remains the No. 1 wide receiver for one of the NFL's most dangerous passing offenses.
As a WR3, you could do worse.
Round 10: Looking for Mr. Goodback
- Russell Wilson, QB, SEA
- Sammy Watkins, WR, BUF
- Jeremy Hill, RB, CIN
- Khiry Robinson, RB, NO
- LeGarrette Blount, RB, PIT
- Antonio Gates, TE, SD
- Shonn Greene, RB, TEN
- Terrance Williams, WR, DAL
- Charles Clay, TE, MIA
- Cecil Shorts, WR, JAX
- St. Louis Rams D/ST
- Christine Michael, RB, SEA
First the Vultures, Then the Hyenas, Then Shonn Greene
You know, for a position that is allegedly decreasing in fantasy value, the drafters here sure seemed intent on making sure that there isn't a running back with a pulse left on the waiver wire when all's said and done.
Five more running backs were selected in Round 10. They include a trio of first- and second-year players in Hill, Robinson and Michael, who are one injury away from being potential top-20 fantasy options.
Biggest Value: Shonn Greene
I feel dirty just typing this.
There isn't a running back in the NFL who personifies the term "plodder" more than Shonn Greene. The sixth-year veteran hasn't averaged four yards a carry since 2011, and his career average barely eclipses that benchmark.
He may have all the explosiveness of a soaking wet box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, but the fact is Greene, for now, is the Titans lead back. Twice in the last three years Greene has topped 1,000 yards on the ground.
At this point in the draft, any starting running back is a steal.
Even (shudder) Shonn Greene.
Biggest Reach: LeGarrette Blount
A week ago, this pick wouldn't have gotten a second thought.
In fact, for most of the summer I've been cool on Le'Veon Bell's fantasy prospects, in large part due to Blount's arrival in the Steel City after his career year with the Patriots in 2013.
I thought (and still do) that Blount is going to eat into Bell's workload more than many believe.
However, in light of Blount and Bell's recent marijuana arrest, I've cooled even more on both backs.
The Steelers haven't ruled out disciplinary action against the pair, regardless of what the NFL does. When it comes to the doghouse pecking order, I'd wager the veteran with the checkered past gets priority over the rookie without one.
In fact, I wouldn't rule out the Steelers using Blount to send a message to Bell.
Blount has more than a little value as a "handcuff" for Bell owners, but outside that, there were better ways to invest this selection.
My Pick: Russell Wilson
I could rattle off a number of reasons why I took Wilson here. That while the Seattle offense limits his fantasy upside, his mobility (and the fantasy points that come with it) make him a more than viable reserve under center.
I could even throw in that Wilson has looked phenomenal in the preseason, and that if head coach Pete Carroll follows through on his pledge to open up the offense, a breakout season for Wilson could be in store.
It's all plausible. True, even.
It's also a lie.
I'm a huge Russell Wilson fan. I love his Tarkenton-esque ability to extend plays, all the while keeping his eyes peeled downfield searching for broken coverages. He seems, from all indications, like a class act.
I wanted him on my team, so I drafted him.
Because fantasy football is supposed to be fun.
Round 11: Youth Is Served
- Brandin Cooks, WR, NO
- Mike Evans, WR, TB
- Travis Kelce, TE, KC
- Justin Hunter, WR, TEN
- Ben Roethlisberger, QB, PIT
- Anquan Boldin, WR, SF
- Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, IND
- Ladarius Green, TE, SD
- Tre Mason, RB, STL
- New England Patriots D/ST
- Jonathan Stewart, RB, CAR
- Rueben Randle, WR, NYG
The Future is Now
In the late stages of fantasy drafts, there are two types of picks: veteran depth and high-upside—higher risk "lottery tickets."
It's that latter type of player who savvy fantasy owners target late. Is there a bigger chance that Brandin Cooks is on your league's waiver wire by Week 5 than Anquan Boldin?
Yes, but the rookie also has a sky-high ceiling playing with the pass-heavy Saints.
By the 11th round, you're playing with house money. Don't be afraid to gamble.
Biggest Value: Justin Hunter
The first four picks of the 11th round were all either first- or second-year players, and in this case at least the best was saved for last.
With new head coach Ken Whisenhunt in Nashville and coming off a 94-catch season, big things were expected of Kendall Wright in 2014. So far, though, it's been Hunter who has thrived in the new scheme, drawing raves throughout camp.
If Hunter can carry the momentum from his eight catches for 164 yards and two touchdowns over the first three preseason games into the contests that count, the 23-year-old could turn out to be one of 2014's best late-round bargains at wide receiver.
Biggest Reach: Tre Mason
It wasn't that long ago that Mason was being mentioned as a potential challenger to Zac Stacy as the starting running back for the Rams.
That was before training camp and the preseason, and it (along with this pick) shows the perils involved with getting too caught up in the hype.
Mason hasn't acclimated well to the NFL, and the former Auburn standout now finds himself not only behind Stacy on the Rams' depth chart but Benny Cunningham as well.
Mason still has more than a little value in dynasty fantasy football leagues, but third-string running backs aren't worth a roster spot in a redraft league this shallow.
My Pick: Rueben Randle
There's disappointment, and then there's getting punched in the gut.
Had any of the first three receivers drafted in Round 11 fallen a bit further, I would have gladly pulled the trigger on them over Randle. The performance of Eli Manning and the Giants offense in the preseason hasn't done much to inspire confidence in fantasy owners.
Nausea? You bet. Maybe even a little diarrhea. But confidence? Zilch.
I'll take that from my fourth wideout.
Round 12: The Home Stretch
- Heath Miller, TE, PIT
- Knile Davis, RB, KC
- Eric Ebron, TE, DET
- Dwayne Bowe, WR, KC
- Robert Griffin III, QB, WAS
- Philip Rivers, QB, SD
- James Starks, RB, GB
- Lance Dunbar, RB, DAL
- Ronnie Hillman, RB, DEN
- Riley Cooper, WR, PHI
- Marvin Jones, WR, CIN
- James White, RB, NE
Leaving No Stone Unturned
It's been a theme throughout this draft, but 12 rounds in and the running back position was still being combed through.
Five more backs were drafted in the 12th. If teams were rummaging through the clearance table a few rounds back, now they're digging through the dumpster behind the store.
Biggest Value: Robert Griffin III
Fantasy owners often fall into the trap of getting caught up in the hype. In this case, at least, it appears the reverse holds true.
Yes, Griffin hasn't looked especially good in the preseason. Actually, that's putting it mildly—he's looked awful.
Still, we're talking about a wildly athletic quarterback who was a top-five fantasy option on a points-per-game basis two years ago, playing in an offense that made Andy Dalton a top-three fantasy quarterback in 2013.
That potential alone is more than worth a 12th-round pick.
Biggest Reach: Marvin Jones
It's hard to really call any pick this late a "reach."
In fact, an argument can be made that fantasy owners should reach late, shooting the proverbial moon on "lottery ticket" upside plays.
With that said, Jones is nursing a broken foot that will sideline him until October at least, and the third-year pro is coming off the sort of career year (10 touchdown catches) that can be hard to back up.
In short, Jones already has a pair of strikes against him, and that doesn't help the odds of that lottery ticket being a winner.
My Pick: Heath Miller
As late-round tight end targets go, it doesn't get a whole lot better than Miller.
The 31-year-old struggled through a down 2013 as he recovered from a torn ACL, but as recently as two years ago Miller was a top-five fantasy performer.
If Miller's five grabs for 53 yards and a score in the team's third preseason game is any indication, the 10th-year veteran is fully healthy. A healthy Miller is a steal at his current ADP.
Round 13: Bring on the Kickers
- Stephen Gostkowski, K, NE
- Matt Prater, K, DEN
- Cincinnati Bengals D/ST
- Kansas City Chiefs D/ST
- Arizona Cardinals D/ST
- Justin Tucker, K, BAL
- Cleveland Browns D/ST
- Baltimore Ravens D/ST
- Phil Dawson, K, SF
- Steven Hauschka, K, SEA
- Dan Bailey, K, DAL
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers D/ST
Listen to Our Electronic Overlords
In at least one respect, the computer that auto-picked 11 of the 12 teams in this mock drafted as well as the savviest of homo sapiens.
Not one kicker came off the board until Stephen Gostkowski of the Patriots began Round 13.
Kickers are notoriously unpredictable, and the gap between the top kicker and 12th kicker last year was less than two fantasy points per game in this scoring.
Don't be that guy/gal who drafts a kicker in the ninth round. You may think you're giving your team an edge, but in reality the only edge you've gained is in the competition to see which team is mocked the most at the post-draft cocktail party.
My Pick: Tampa Bay Buccaneers D/ST
This pick had as much to do with the Buccaneers' Week 1 opponent as their defense itself.
Yes, the Bucs made some big moves on the defensive side of the ball in the offseason, adding end Michael Johnson and cornerback Alterraun Verner.
Lovie Smith's defenses have historically been strong fantasy producers as well, due largely to their penchant for forcing turnovers.
Throw in a matchup against a Carolina Panthers team with a banged up Cam Newton and rebuilt receiving corps, and the Buccaneers are as good a place as any to begin my annual revolving door of waiver wire matchup D/ST plays.
Round 14: Wrapping Things Up
- Mason Crosby, K, GB
- Delanie Walker, TE, TEN
- Andy Dalton, QB, CIN
- Dexter McCluster, WR, KC
- Matt Bryant, K, ATL
- Blair Walsh, K, MIN
- DeAndre Hopkins, WR, HOU
- Adam Vinatieri, K, IND
- Nick Novak, K, SD
- Robbie Gould, K, CHI
- Zach Miller, TE, SEA
- Richard Rodgers, TE, GB
What Have We Learned?
So, what has this mock draft taught us?
First off, while it goes without saying, this draft shows how important it is to know your league's scoring and lineup requirements. This draft featured two starting wide receivers and no PPR, which increased the value of running backs and contributed to the early ravaging of the position.
Had this draft featured three starters at wideout and a point per catch, teams that look great here would be a mess. Don't blow your season up before it starts by assuming that your new league is the same as all your old ones.
For all the talk about the death of running backs in fantasy football, enough sure seemed to fly off the board early. The fact is, the devaluation of the "bell cow" running back in NFL may have had the opposite effect in fantasy football.
There just aren't as many true featured backs in the NFL anymore, which increases the importance of getting one for your team. It's especially true in a scoring system such as this.
Conversely, the depth at the quarterback position affords fantasy owners the opportunity to acquire that running back without being hamstrung under center. With players like Nick Foles available in the middle rounds and options like Griffin, Rivers and Dalton still on the board in the last two rounds of the draft, there's little point in jumping the gun at quarterback in 2014.
There's a similar connection where the pass-catchers are concerned. The wide receiver spot is deep enough to allow fantasy owners some flexibility there. That flexibility can accommodate a number of strategies at tight end, whether it's drafting Jimmy Graham in the first, Rob Gronkowski a round or two later, or waiting longer still.
Frankly, outside of running back, it's a deep pool of talent all-around in fantasy football this year, which is most assuredly a good thing.
It opens more avenues where draft-day plans are concerned, and makes it a lot harder to truly screw up a fantasy draft in 2014.
Don't worry, between injuries and bad lineup choices, there's plenty of chances for disaster still to come.
And isn't anticipation and excitement with a side of impending doom what fantasy football's all about?
Gary Davenport is a Fantasy Football and NFL Analyst at Bleacher Report, and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and Pro Football Writers of America. Gary’s fantasy football work has been featured in a number of national print publications and on both satellite and terrestrial radio, and he was a finalist for the FSWA Web Article of the Year in 2013. You can follow Gary on Twitter @IDPManor.
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