Fantasy Football Mock Draft 2015: Round-by-Round Breakdown

Jim McCormick@@_JimmyMcCormickFeatured ColumnistAugust 20, 2015

Fantasy Football Mock Draft 2015: Round-by-Round Breakdown

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Some dream of hitting the game-winning shot to secure NBA glory. Others envision tossing or catching a Hail Mary to win the Super Bowl. Personally, I dream of recapping mock fantasy football drafts for a living.

    Sometimes dreams do come true, kids. As an extension of my life goal, we've produced a sample mock draft based on Fantasy Pros' current ADP model, which incorporates six major draft resources to accurately gauge the market. 

    To make this one-man mock feel more accurate and realistic to the nature of a real fake football draft, I've deployed Fantasy Pros' Draft Wizard application. It closely adheres to the site's aggregated ADP results, but also behaves in a team-by-team construct; that way the No. 1 pick in this process slot doesn't hoard quarterbacks, but instead drafts with an eye on team-building and roster balance. 

    Now, I didn't realize my mock draft dreams until after several thousand practice rounds, so I suggest that you prep in an active mock draft lobby before heading into the real thing with your friends.

    Randomly netting the seventh overall pick in this 12-team mock, I discuss some of my team's selections in the context of this specific draft, in addition to evaluating some of the more telling trends as rounds and positional tiers unfold. 

Round 1: AP Is Still A1, with Running Backs Proving Popular

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Round 1

    1. RB Adrian Peterson, MIN 
    2. RB Eddie Lacy, GB
    3. RB Jamaal Charles, KC
    4. RB Le'Veon Bell, PIT
    5. RB Marshawn Lynch, SEA
    6. RB C.J. Anderson, DEN 
    7. WR Antonio Brown, PIT
    8. RB Matt Forte, CHI
    9. QB Aaron Rodgers, GB 
    10. RB LeSean McCoy, BUF
    11. RB DeMarco Murray, PHI
    12. TE Rob Gronkowski, NE

    Six Pack of Backs

    The top six backs you see going in the first round have been consistently grouped together for much of the summer. In fact, in two recent ESPN staff mock drafts I've participated in, the same six backs have gone off the board in varying order. Peterson, Lynch and Charles rank second (7,089), fifth (6,544) and sixth (6,499), respectively, in rushing yardage since 2009, while Bell, Lacy and Anderson offer dashes of relative youth into the mix.

    Only Anderson's small-sample-fueled resume inspires doubt over the legitimacy of his top-pick esteem. While some fear Anderson's torrid second half of 2014 was fool's gold, others, such as The Football Scientist, ESPN.com's KC Joyner, believe Anderson actually profiles as a low-risk investment: "In 21 seasons as an offensive coordinator or head coach, Kubiak's clubs have ranked higher in the league rushing attempt rankings than they have in the passing attempt rankings 14 times."

    A-Rod

    Only Peyton Manning (21.9) has averaged more ESPN standard-scoring fantasy points per game than Aaron Rodgers (20.3) since 2012.

    While the key principle of Value Based Drafting (VBD) suggests "the value of a player is determined not by the number of points he scores, but by how much he outscores his peers at his particular position," there is undeniable security in owning Rodgers' right arm—and the 5,000 yards and 40 scores that are quite realistically within reach this season. 

    Using VBD principles, we find that the gap in average weekly fantasy output over the past three seasons between the top-scoring QB (21.9) and 12th at the position over that span (15.9 points from Nick Foles) is 31.3 percent. Meanwhile, the gap in production between the top fantasy tailback (16 from Peterson) and the 24th back (8.9) registers at 79 percent, suggesting the scarcity of premier production at running back is quite real.

    Those who invest in Rodgers or Andrew Luck this high will need a legitimate plan to acquire impact skill players for the rest of the draft. 

    Gronky Kong

    Wide weekly margins at a shallow position thanks to Gronkowski's WR1-like production vault him into the first round.

    Injury exposure is present for any high-usage, high-end tailback, so any inherent durability risks should be comparably considered when pricing Gronk's famously physical playing style. With a 120 percent margin in average fantasy point production between Gronkowski (11.9 fantasy points per game in 2014) and the 12th tight end (Heath Miller, 5.4 last season), this is a palatable roster risk to assume.

    My Pick

    We demand a nearly undeliverable combination of consistency and prolific singular outings from our top picks. Brown is the rare elite commodity capable of fulfilling the call to action.

    Brown finished in the top 10 of fantasy wideouts (using ESPN standard scoring) in nine games last season, and dropped out of the top 25 on just two occasions. Per ESPN Stats & Info, Brown has tallied "six or more targets in 33 consecutive games (including postseason), with 10-plus targets in 23 [games]" over that span.

Round 2: Receiver Run and a Man Named Luck

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    Gus Ruelas/Associated Press

    Round 2

    1. WR Dez Bryant, DAL
    2. WR Demaryius Thomas, DEN
    3. WR Odell Beckham Jr., NYG 
    4. RB Jeremy Hill, CIN
    5. QB Andrew Luck, IND
    6. WR Julio Jones, ATL
    7. WR Calvin Johnson, DET
    8. WR Jordy Nelson, GB
    9. WR A.J. Green. CIN
    10. WR Randall Cobb, GB
    11. RB Justin Forsett, BAL
    12. WR Alshon Jeffery, CHI

    Super Wideouts

    It's difficult to fade any of these star receivers. All come with some semblance of inherent risk, but the statistical and usage floors for the spectrum of wideouts represented in this round is astounding.

    Odell Beckham bears significant injury and acclimation risks as he heads into the campaign as a known and studied weapon. Mike Sando of ESPN.com shared with me this offseason that several league execs expressed their fear of Calvin Johnson breaking down, but the superlative specimen remains a threat for the top spot as long as he's suiting up. Jordy Nelson comes off offseason hip surgery but claims the top-target perch on the league's best passing offense. 

    We can go on; each player has his own unique blend of risk and reward, but all of these assets offer true WR1 portfolios. 

    My Pick

    With real potential to lead the league in targets just a year after placing third in the coveted metric, Jones should thrive in the high-volume "X" role in Kyle Shanahan's offensive scheme. Having two supremely productive receivers in place sets me up to go best available for the rest of the draft. 

Round 3: Wilson-to-Graham Goes off the Board

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    John Froschauer/Associated Press

    Round 3

    1. WR Mike Evans, TB
    2. WR T.Y. Hilton, IND
    3. TE Jimmy Graham, SEA
    4. RB Lamar Miller, MIA 
    5. RB Mark Ingram, NO
    6. RB Frank Gore, IND
    7. WR Jordan Matthews, PHI
    8. RB Melvin Gordon, SD
    9. WR Emmanuel Sanders, DEN
    10. RB Alfred Morris, WAS
    11. QB Russell Wilson, SEA
    12. WR DeAndre Hopkins, HOU

    Tier Drop

    The end of the superstar receiver tier seems to hit right around the turn entering the third round. Both Mike Evans and T.Y. Hilton claim valuable vertical roles in their respective offenses.

    Aligning with Andrew Luck's top target makes perfect sense, although some pundits fear a low target share and increased competition for meaningful targets could curb Hilton's upside appeal.

    Meanwhile, I'm of the belief that Evans will end up near the league lead in targets on what will prove to be a pass-happy offense out of pure necessity in Tampa Bay. The guy just turned in a top-12 fantasy season in his age-21 season. 

    Jimmy in Seattle

    While Jimi Hendrix is from Seattle, Jimmy Graham is merely moving there to play football.

    There is much debate over whether Graham can sustain a special production pace when going from one of the league's annual leaders in passing volume to a team that often posts a bottom-three total in passing attempts.

    While a valid debate ensues, RotoViz expert Anthony Amico offers some statistical evidence that Graham remains well-positioned to post strong touchdown metrics as a Seahawk: "In Wilson’s three seasons, Seattle has been able to consistently make trips to the red zone. However, in 2014, the team struggled to score red-zone TDs, ranking 25th in that category."

    RB2 Time

    Mark Ingram led the NFL in rushes inside the 5-yard line last season, and he is once again in a prime position to consume valuable work on a fast-paced offense.

    Similarly, Frank Gore should benefit from improved opportunity at high-leverage carries on a top attack. Fears of age and demise should be weighed, but as you see the draft progress, taking the risk on Gore is understandable given the sheer cliff at tailback talent on the way.  

    My Pick

    With Gore and Ingram off the board I confidently went with Matthews, who, by my projections, stands to consume 160-plus targets in the league's snap-happiest offense. Having seen Matthews in person at training camp a few times already, he really does appear poised to take the top target share for Philadelphia. 

Round 4: Peyton Manning and Other Legendary QBs

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Round 4

    1. RB Jonathan Stewart, CAR
    2. RB Carlos Hyde, SF
    3. QB Drew Brees, NO
    4. WR Brandin Cooks, NO
    5. WR Andre Johnson, IND
    6. QB Peyton Manning, DEN
    7. WR Keenan Allen, SD
    8. WR Amari Cooper, OAK
    9. WR Golden Tate, DET
    10. RB Latavius Murray, OAK
    11. WR Julian Edelman, NE
    12. QB Ben Roethlisberger, PIT

    Aging Arms

    Don't let talk of imminent decline throw you off the path to value, as Manning, Brees and Roethlisberger all helm elite passing offenses. Talk of the Broncos and Saints going suddenly run-dependent is a bit overblown, especially since rushing efficiency would only stand to help these progression prophets in play action and favorable down-and-distance scenarios. I generally wait on QB play, but this fourth-round tier of productive arms proved enticing. 

    Real Gold?

    Golden Tate consumed the 10th-most targets in the NFL last season, but was he a product of favorable conditions with Calvin Johnson ailing for much of the campaign? In looking at his splits with and without Johnson in the lineup, we find Tate averaged eight catches for 128 yards and 0.6 touchdowns in three games without Johnson active, thanks to 13.3 targets per game in those contests.

    Meanwhile, with Johnson active, even accounting for his decoy games, Tate averaged just 0.15 scores per game with 5.7 receptions and 92 yards, resulting in a 72 percent dip in fantasy production. Tate was still set for a rich yardage season even with Megatron in the mix, but I'm wary of the fourth-round price on a player with a questionable ceiling.

Round 5: Allen Robinson and the Breakout Boys

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Round 5

    1. WR DeSean Jackson, WAS
    2. WR Allen Robinson, JAC
    3. WR Sammy Watkins, BUF
    4. WR Martavis Bryant, PIT
    5. TE Travis Kelce, KC
    6. WR Vincent Jackson, TB
    7. RB T.J. Yeldon, JAC
    8. WR Jarvis Landry, MIA 
    9. RB Joique Bell, DET
    10. WR Jeremy Maclin, KC 
    11. WR Brandon Marshall, NYJ
    12. RB Andre Ellington, ARI 

    Mr. Robinson

    The breakout bandwagon for Robinson gained a lot of passengers over the summer, and for good reason; removing his no-show pro debut in Week 1 last September, Robinson was 29th in PPR points per game among receivers from Week 2 to Week 10. Robinson, with his diverse route tree, offers real upside at the position with 140-plus targets in the works this season.

    Cheap Chief

    Despite heading to a languid passing offense, especially for wideout production, Maclin's risks in Kansas City are essentially baked into his draft price. Meanwhile, he's 14th in PPR points per game at the position since 2012. 

Round 6: Ameer Abdullah and the QB Run

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Round 6

    1. QB Cam Newton, CAR
    2. TE Greg Olsen, CAR 
    3. WR Brandon LaFell, NE 
    4. TE Julius Thomas, JAC
    5. WR Roddy White, ATL 
    6. RB Ameer Abdullah, DET
    7. TE Martellus Bennett, CHI 
    8. WR John Brown, ARI 
    9. QB Matt Ryan, ATL 
    10. QB Tony Romo, DAL
    11. QB Tom Brady, NE
    12. RB Todd Gurley, STL 

    Detroit Dynamo

    A dynamic playmaker with a brilliant collection of big plays in college, Abdullah secures me a strong upside asset for a team that started off WR-WR-WR. While I still trust in Joique Bell's per-touch ability, his durability and usage limitations suggest this rookie should make an impact right away. 

    Tony on Top?

    Given offensive coordinator Scott Linehan's pass-happy history and some team-specific trends on the offensive line and in the backfield, it's not insane to think Tony Romo could enjoy his best statistical season in 2015.

Round 7: Tight Ends Galore and a C.J. Spiller Appearance

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    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    Round 7

    1. TE Zach Ertz, PHI
    2. RB LeGarrette Blount, NE
    3. WR Mike Wallace, MIN
    4. TE Owen Daniels, DEN
    5. QB Ryan Tannehill, MIA 
    6. QB Eli Manning, NYG
    7. RB C.J. Spiller, NO
    8. TE Jason Witten, DAL 
    9. TE Jordan Cameron, MIA 
    10. WR Nelson Agholor, PHI 
    11. WR Charles Johnson, MIN
    12. Seattle D/ST

    Tight End Run

    I'm only really interested in getting Jordan Cameron at his price among the tight ends in this round. Zach Ertz claimed just a 14.2 percent target share in the Eagles' passing offense last fall and really doesn't threaten to take a significant usage leap despite fantasy investors pricing such a shift for the 2015 campaign.

    Owen Daniels runs like a dad and was really inefficient last season, placing in the bottom tier of fantasy points per route run. Chase the Peyton tight end angle all you want, but this isn't a young asset on the rise. If anything, I'd prefer Virgil Green many rounds later.

    Jason Witten is a reasonable buy here, but you are essentially paying for the 10th tight end in points per game with little upside in the way of production ceiling. Personally, I'd either want to get Cameron after the top three are off the board or wait all the way until the end, which I did in this draft.

    My Pick

    I'll gladly take on Spiller during this deflated time in his market price after a recent knee procedure. Former Buffalo Bills OC Nathaniel Hackett ran Spiller between the tackles, essentially removing the juice from this electric space player. The "Sproles role" will remind us of Spiller at his best.

Round 8: Doug Martin and Other Risk-Reward Running Backs

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Round 8 

    1. RB Joseph Randle, DAL 
    2. TE Delanie Walker, TEN 
    3. Buffalo D/ST
    4. RB Alfred Blue, HOU
    5. RB Doug Martin, TB
    6. RB Bishop Sankey,TEN
    7. RB Chris Ivory, NYJ
    8. RB Gio Bernard, CIN
    9. Houston D/ST 
    10. RB Rashad Jennings, NYG
    11. Philadelphia D/ST 
    12. RB Tevin Coleman, ATL 

    The Round of Meh

    There aren't a ton of inspiring picks to be found in this round, as it's mostly wart-laden tailback commodities. That said, I'm interested in getting shares of Chris Ivory all over the place; he's the sole starting back on a thin depth chart in a Chan Gailey offense. Meanwhile, Doug Martin's revival campaign would come at a pretty cheap price.

    Deciphering Dallas

    Getting a clean read on the Dallas depth chart at running back hasn't been easy this summer. However, the price to get into what could be an invaluable share of its running game is coming at a pretty reasonable discount.

    Joseph Randle's midsummer ADP peak has been tempered by recent talks of committee usage and the realization by many that he remains a "JAG" (just a guy) until proved otherwise. 

Round 9: Steve Smith Leads the WR4 Charge

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Round 9

    1. RB Devonta Freeman, ATL
    2. RB Shane Vereen, NYG 
    3. WR Torrey Smith, SF
    4. RB Darren McFadden, DAL
    5. WR Michael Floyd, ARI
    6. RB Ryan Mathews, PHI
    7. WR Eric Decker, NYJ
    8. WR Eddie Royal, CHI 
    9. WR Victor Cruz, NYG
    10. RB Isaiah Crowell, CLE 
    11. WR Steve Smith, BAL
    12. St. Louis D/ST 

    Round Breakdown

    Shares of Ryan Mathews remain very reasonable, even when you don't invest in DeMarco Murray. Similarly, Eric Decker is an undeniable top-30 fantasy receiver by all metrics, except for actual ADP. If you can land Crowell at this level of discount, pounce every time. That Cleveland Browns offensive line is arguably better than Dallas' elite bunch. 

Round 10: Veteran QBs and Lottery-Ticket Tailbacks

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    Michael Perez/Associated Press

    Round 10

    1. QB Matthew Stafford, DET
    2. WR Breshad Perriman, BAL
    3. RB David Cobb, TEN
    4. QB Philip Rivers, SD
    5. QB Sam Bradford, PHI 
    6. RB Arian Foster, HOU 
    7. RB Jonas Gray, NE 
    8. RB Tre Mason, STL
    9. RB Duke Johnson, CLE
    10. WR Larry Fitzgerald, ARI 
    11. RB Montee Ball, DEN
    12. WR Kendall Wright, TEN

    Round Breakdown

    I took the risk on Foster given my elite receiver roster and the potential need for a backfield infusion down the line. While prepping for the playoffs is a bit premature, having a season-long stash isn't as much of an opportunity risk if your league has at least six bench spots. 

Round 11: Danny Woodhead and Diverse Depth Additions

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    Denis Poroy/Associated Press

    Round 11

    1. WR Marques Colston, NO 
    2. RB Charles Sims, TB 
    3. RB Reggie Bush, SF
    4. Denver D/ST 
    5. RB Danny Woodhead, SD 
    6. RB Dan Herron, IND  
    7. TE Tyler Eifert, CIN 
    8. WR Anquan Boldin, SF
    9. WR Michael Crabtree, OAK
    10. QB Colin Kaepernick, SF
    11. RB Andre Williams, NYG
    12. QB Teddy Bridgewater, MIN 

    Round Breakdown

    There's a growing argument for Kaepernick becoming a great value as a matchup, plug-and-play signal-caller. With a decimated defensive core, the team might finally have to let him freelance and make plays outside of the conservative structure he's been developed under.

    While I don't think Marques Colston has much left in the tank, there's real potential for Michael Crabtree to become a worthy WR4 and a fun DFS commodity for an Oakland offense that will likely grow pass-heavy when down. 

Rounds 12 and 13: Handcuff Running Backs and Backup QBs

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Round 12

    1. RB Roy Helu, OAK
    2. WR Percy Harvin, BUF
    3. WR Terrance Williams, DAL
    4. RB Stevan Ridley, NYJ 
    5. RB David Johnson, ARI
    6. WR Brian Quick, STL 
    7. WR DeVante Parker, MIA
    8. Arizona D/ST 
    9. QB Carson Palmer, ARI 
    10. QB Joe Flacco, BAL 
    11. WR Pierre Garcon, WAS 
    12. QB Alex Smith, KC 

    Round 13

    1. RB DeAngelo Williams, PIT 
    2. TE Josh Hill, NO
    3. WR Davante Adams, GB 
    4. WR Steve Johnson, SD
    5. WR Malcom Floyd, SD
    6. RB Chris Polk, HOU
    7. WR Devin Funchess, CAR
    8. TE Dwayne Allen, IND 
    9. WR Jaelen Strong, HOU
    10. RB Matt Jones, WAS 
    11. RB Lorenzo Taliaferro, BAL 
    12. WR Kenny Stills, MIA 

    Quick Discount

    In 2014, Brian Quick was ninth in PPR points per game among wideouts through Week 5, before poor QB play and injuries marred his season. With Nick Foles in tow, I'm chasing Quick's cheap shares.

    Could Be Funchess

    This mock developed based on current ADP trends, which simply aren't fast enough to account for the rapid market spike we are about to witness for Funchess in the wake of Kelvin Benjamin's ACL injury. I was a fan of Funchess' heading into the season already, thanks to a similarly huge frame but a more receiver-like skill set and route tree than Benjamin. With his stock likely to hit the ninth or 10th round in the next two weeks, the risk-reward pendulum will be tested with the raw rookie.

    Handcuff Market

    For a better understanding of this year's market for handcuff tailbacks, check out my recent B/R feature.

Rounds 14 and 15: RGIII, Defenses and Kickers

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Round 14

    1. WR Josh Huff, PHI
    2. Cincinnati D/ST 
    3. RB Jay Ajayi, MIA
    4. RB Cameron Artis-Payne, CAR
    5. RB Knile Davis, KC
    6. Miami D/ST 
    7. Green Bay D/ST 
    8. Carolina D/ST 
    9. TE Coby Fleener, IND
    10. Kansas City D/ST
    11. QB Robert Griffin, WAS 
    12. Minnesota D/ST 

    Round 15

    1. K Stephen Gostkowski, NE
    2. K Steven Hauschka, SEA
    3. K Adam Vinatieri, IND 
    4. K Mason Crosby, GB
    5. K Justin Tucker, BAL
    6. K Dan Bailey, DAL
    7. K Connor Barth, DEN
    8. K Cody Parkey, PHI
    9. K Dan Carpenter, BUF
    10. K Blair Walsh, MIN
    11. K Matt Prater, DET
    12. K Matt Bryant, ATL

    Defensive Design

    Don't worry about season-long sustainability for your D/ST investments. Instead, eye the first several weeks, or even just the first game, and chase the league's weakest offenses and most suspect signal-callers in the process. The Miami Dolphins, for example, open with a soft-serve slate: Redskins, Jaguars, Bills, Jets, Titans and Texans. 

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