Fantasy Football 2015: Examining Preseason Mock Draft and Cheat Sheet

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistAugust 12, 2015

Cincinnati Bengals running back Jeremy Hill, right, runs with the ball as Indianapolis Colts linebacker Jerrell Freeman defends during the first half of an NFL wildcard playoff football game Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
AJ Mast/Associated Press

Crank out the spreadsheets. August means an onslaught of fantasy football rankings before the NFL season commences.  

While nobody should blindly follow another person's rankings, even avid gamers can use a point of reference before assembling their own grades. It's important to be your own person, but it's also smart to question why nobody else appraises Joe Flacco as a top-five quarterback.

All of the lists in the world don't help until you put them to practical use. An essential preparation tool, mock drafts are now easier than ever to do. After providing some early rankings, I'll break down a practice run I conducted using FantasyPros' Draft Wizard, a tool that allows users to draft against automated competitors.

Cheat Sheet

RankQBRBWRTE
1Aaron RodgersLe'Veon BellAntonio BrownRob Gronkowski
2Andrew LuckAdrian PetersonDemaryius ThomasJimmy Graham
3Russell WilsonEddie LacyJulio JonesTravis Kelce
4Drew BreesJamaal CharlesDez BryantGreg Olsen
5Peyton ManningMarshawn LynchOdell Beckham Jr.Martellus Bennett
6Ben RoethlisbergerC.J. AndersonJordy NelsonDelanie Walker
7Matt RyanJeremy HillCalvin JohnsonJulius Thomas
8Tony RomoMatt ForteA.J. GreenJason Witten
9Cam NewtonDeMarco MurrayRandall CobbAntonio Gates
10Eli ManningLeSean McCoyAlshon JeffreyZach Ertz
11Tom BradyJustin ForsettMike EvansOwen Daniels
12Ryan TannehillFrank GoreEmmanuel SandersJosh Hill
13Philip RiversAlfred MorrisT.Y. HiltonDwayne Allen
14Matthew StaffordLamar MillerDeAndre HopkinsJordan Cameron
15Teddy BridgewaterMark IngramAndre JohnsonLarry Donnell
Author's Rankings

Notes

  • These rankings are tailored for standard leagues, not accounting for points per receptions. It also assumes four points per passing touchdown. Adjust accordingly depending on your league's scoring.
  • This is a bad year to pick first. A logical case can be made for any of the top five running backs. Le'Veon Bell would be the first choice without his two-game suspension. Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles have proven capable of terrorizing defenses for massive gains. Eddie Lacy settled into a stable role for an elite offense, and Marshawn Lynch offers safety.
  • Does Jordy Nelson and Calvin Johnson at No. 6 and 7, respectively, seem harsh? Probably, but the entire top 10 operates as one tightly packed tier after Antonio Brown. None of them should last far beyond the second round, with or without PPR formatting.
  • Everyone in the universe is waiting on quarterback, but don't stall forever. The grouping between Matt Ryan and Ryan Tannehill represent a sweet spot for landing a bargain starter, with Teddy Bridgewater, Carson Palmer and Sam Bradford serving as high-upside reserves.
  • Tight end is as messy as usual behind Rob Gronkowski. Travis Kelce could join the select club of stars, but his average draft position (ADP) has skyrocketed to No. 47, per FantasyPros. Unless he falls, wait on the position.

Mock Draft

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This is a 12-team mock draft using standard scoring and basic opponent pick logic, meaning the other simulated teams drafted based on ADP and team needs. For fun, I added a flex spot (running back, wide receiver or tight end) along with the default settings.

POSPlayerRound
QBMatt Ryan5.11
RBJeremy Hill2.2
RBAlfred Morris3.11
WRDemaryius Thomas1.11
WRBrandin Cooks4.2
WRVincent Jackson6.2
TEAntonio Gates10.2
FLEXRashad Jennings7.11
D/STBaltimore Ravens15.11
KAdam Vinatieri16.2
BNBrandon LaFell8.2
BNArian Foster9.11
BNChris Polk11.11
BNTeddy Bridgewater12.2
BNJosh Hill13.11
BNCody Latimer14.2
Mock conducted on FantasyPros

Strategy

Denis Poroy/Associated Press

Honestly, none. I entered with a "wing it" approach, content on letting the draft dictate my actions. I'll often go into a mock intent on trying a specific strategy, such as waiting on running back or seeing how my roster would look with a star quarterback or tight end. 

For this drill, I wanted the best available guys early, later adjusting for team needs. I usually go RB-WR when picking near the end, which ended up happening with Demaryius Thomas and Jeremy Hill. Had Gronkowski fallen, I would have changed course.

After attaining two solid building blocks, I continued to accumulate value before taking shots later. 

Biggest X-Factors: Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans and Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers

Calling Arian Foster and Antonio Gates risky mock-draft picks is probably cheating. I get to fill my roster with top-shelf stars and discard the team later, not dealing with the aftermath of their absences to open the season.

A first-round pick last week, Foster's stock plummeted after sustaining a groin injury to open practice, as originally reported by ESPN's Tania Ganguli:

The Houston Texans running back will miss significant time after undergoing surgery, but NFL.com's Ian Rapoport left the door open for a return midway through the season:

ESPN Stats & Info chronicled the running back's immense impact for the Houston Texans and fantasy owners over the years:

There's probably a better chance than not of him offering no value this season. He'll be fortunate to return after Houston's Week 9 bye, and there's no guarantee he immediately shakes off the cobwebs. Then again, a guy with 1,573 yards last season could come back for the fantasy playoffs, and he only requires a bench pick.

Comfortable with Hill, the always steady Alfred Morris and a potential steal in Rashad Jennings, I rolled the dice on a high-upside pick who isn't vital to the team's chances.

Another roll of the dice, Antonio Gates will serve a four-game suspension due to violating the NFL's drug policy. Slashing one-quarter of last year's stats, he still tallied 615 receiving yards and nine touchdowns, making him a sturdy starter upon his return.

Overall Thoughts

Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

I don't love it, but I don't hate it. Along with Foster and Gates, Brandin Cooks would make or break this squad's success. If he blossoms into a breakout star as Drew Brees' top target, I'd feel better about going boring with Morris and Vincent Jackson. 

After paying a Round 4 premium, a simply good year will prove underwhelming. Anyone honoring his lofty cost is expecting No. 2 wideout production from the sophomore. For what it's worth, he's eager to comply.

“That’s why I worked so hard throughout the offseason,” Cooks told the Advocate's Nick Underhill. “That’s what I’m focused on, to be able to come in and help my team and ultimately be a dominant player like that.”

Hardly a killer team, but that's what mock drafts are for. Two or 20 more of these, and I'll have a winning blueprint down pat.