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Five experts mock drafting the rookie draft, pre-NFL Draft…so it’s a bit flying-blind on their landing spots, but we wanted to show you what some experts were thinking at this stage of the draft studies.
We’ll release a few picks each day as they are made, and the commentary is organized to be published. The draft is going on, a slow draft, as I type. After each round we'll publish the whole thing as one post and then all of them as a post in the end, but for now pieces at a time.
*Informal chats via email, so forgive typos or grammar.
Welcome to the first annual FFMetrics expert rookie mock draft. The participants and draft order is as follows:
1.1 Jason Katz (Katz)
1.2 Myles Crowe (MC)
1.3 Ender (END)
1.4 Xavier Cromartie (XC)
1.5 RC Fischer (RC)
And keeping that order for 25 picks.
1.1 Saquon Barkley
1.2 Rashaad Penny
Katz: END is on the clock.
END: 1.03 Courtland Sutton. I was afraid that Sutton would be gone at 2, but luckily our resident RB expert snatched up Penny. I’m happy with Sutton. I’d rather have a WR anyways as I know I can always find cheap RBs on waivers. Sutton isn’t can’t miss, but he’s a very solid WR prospect with few flaws. The only real nitpick is he doesn’t have long speed, but who cares? You don’t need to score 60 yard bomb TDs to be a top 5 WR in fantasy. He reminds me of a much quicker Alshon Jeffrey. Landing spot obviously matters, but word is the 49ers love him. I cannot think of a better spot for Sutton to go. Working with Jimmy G for the next 10 years? Thank you very much.
RC: I knew he wouldn't fall to me at 1.05 with this group, but I still hate you for picking him ;). Now I don't even want my 1.05 pick.
I have visions of Sutton + Dak in my head. I have nightmares of Sutton + Flacco... I'll be OK with Xavier's latest projection of Sutton to the Saints.
Katz: I like Sutton more than Ridley for sure, but I still think DJ Moore has a higher floor (Sutton a higher ceiling). But my issue with this pick isn't really about Sutton himself. I would actually be most pleased to see my Cowboys draft Sutton. It's just the draft history of taking WRs early in rookie drafts is bleak. Top 4 WRs in 2017: Corey Davis, Mike Williams, John Ross, Zay Jones. Top 4 WRs in 2016: Corey Coleman, Laquon Treadwell, Josh Doctson, Sterling Shepard. Top 4 WRs in 2015: Amari Cooper, DeVante Parker, Nelson Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham. The legendary 2014 draft class still reverberates across the fantasy landscape today, but historically, taking one of the first few WRs in a rookie draft has not been a winning proposition.
END: I’d love to see Sutton on the Cowboys too. The history of top picks doesn’t bother me. Some of those were blatant bad picks. Looking at you John Ross and Will Fuller. Injuries have also been a problem. It’s just coincidence. Plenty of top WRs have been good before the past 3-4 seasons. They will start hitting again. In fact I’d imagine as soon as most teams look at that “trend” and start avoiding 1st round WRs they will pick back up.
Katz: That's a fair point. WR production was also historically bad last season. Given
the trend of the NFL towards being more pass heavy in general, I do think we will see a WR renaissance (just like the RB renaissance of 2016 after the historically bad 2015) if not this year, then next year. It's a constant ebb and flow so, to your point, while rookie WRs have been mostly a bad investment in recent years, there will come a time in the future when they become a good investment. The value is in getting out in front of it. I don't think this is the year for that, but I completely respect you thinking Sutton might be the start of the turnaround.
MC: @Katz- You reminded us about that WR trend a month ago I believe, and it stuck with me when picking at 2, that and the fact that most of the teams in my particular dynasty league need RB help and will likely overvalue the position b/c of it. I pick 4th & 11th and fully expect one of Ridley, Sutton, or Moore to be there at 11. Trying to arrange those 3 has been a big pain in my butt though TBH.
RC: The 1st round WRs have been a flop of late for sure...but let's not blame the wide receiver group or any talented ones. The problem isn't the WRs and their transition...it's the draft analysts are wrong way too much on 'who are the top guys?', and it pushes NFL teams to follow the media momentum and they see what they want to/are conditioned to see. Calvin Ridley shouldn't even be mentioned in the same breath as Courtland Sutton...but Ridley will go 5-10-15 picks ahead of Sutton.
WRs can come in and produce right away...paired with a nice QB and a solid offense.
Cameron Meredith and Tyrell Williams were two of the best WR prospects in the 2015 NFL Draft...and they didn't get drafted. It's not their fault the NFL sucks at talent evaluations.
Let's judge the WRs on their individual talents (and landing spot), as the group of us here tend to do better than the NFL. I'm not going to be down on Sutton's valuation because LaQuon Treadwell and Mike Williams were pushed by the football establishment. The fact that Sutton isn't getting that push is all the more to love him in my book.
1.1 Saquon Barkley
1.2 Rashaad Penny
1.3 Courtland Sutton
XC: 1.04 QB Lamar Jackson (Louisville). I'm taking Jackson because he's a rushing QB. I would have taken him at 1.02. With a rushing QB, in the worst case scenario you have a low-end QB1, like Michael Vick or Colin Kaepernick. But look at the high-end potential of a rushing QB who is even slightly competent as a passer. Vick became the fabled 'QB God' in 2010 and blew away Manning, Rodgers, Brees, and Brady—highlighted by a legendary 6 TD game against the Redskins. Last year, Deshaun Watson briefly looked almost as phenomenal despite his weak arm. Russell Wilson and Cam Newton are consistently QB1-tier because of the stat boost from rushing. In his last two seasons at Louisville, Lamar Jackson rushed for 3172 yards and 39 TDs. Both seasons, he was in the top-10 in rushing yards—as a QB. He is only 21 years old. And on top of all of that, he might actually be a decent passer. The only concern is his thin frame, leading to potential for injury.
END: Nooo...I should have known this group of sharks would jump on Lamar. I think that’s an incredibly shrewd move. Totally agree on all the points. Rushing QBs are worth their weight in fantasy points.
MC: HA, I hear your whispers of Freeman & Ridley there, RC! You guys caught me in the middle of a deeper dive on all the top backs and top receivers while there's finally more tape out there. A few picks from now I'll probably be cursing you under my breath though saying "Damn you, RC; I should've taken such and such at 2 instead", lol.
IDK about the SEC thing though regarding Penny. I mean, I'm not sure you could simply take the top backs out of that conference, put them on San Diego St, and just pencil them in as the nation's leading rusher of the past three years, and at 7.8 YPC to boot despite nearly 300 carries. When you look at the 17 backs with more than 250 carries, Penny & Love are the only 2 with more than 6.6 YPC, and they blow that out of the water by more than a yard. I still prefer to go by the University of My Own Eyes when assessing players though, film above all else for me. Penny looked pretty darn good in the Senior Bowl against top competition I might add. He would've been just fine in the SEC, IMO.... especially on a team like Georgia behind that terrific O-line, so it can cut both ways.
MC: @Katz. Yeah this is a markedly difficult 1st round to plot out this year after Barkley, with about ten guys so close to each other that it's tough trying to do this without knowing destinations. They're so close that destination will likely play a greater role than any other time in recent history that I can recall.
If Penny goes on Day 2 (which is likely), the workload should be there....... and if he finds himself drafted ahead of Chubb or within his proximity, then I don't know that I could automatically label Chubb's volume as more favorable. Hunt, Dalvin, and Kamara got plenty of volume as Day 2 picks. If Guice goes in R1 then he'll definitely get the volume, but the thing that makes Guice so good - his throwing caution to the wind mentality - is also the thing that makes him the greatest injury risk of the bunch IMO. With all the talented backs in this draft, I'd rather select one who doesn't approach every carry as though someone let a pack of African bees loose in his pants. It'll come down to destination though for me. If Penny is drafted onto a timeshare but others aren't, then I definitely won't be selecting Penny 2nd overall.
RC: I'm down with LJax as a top 5 guy in the DRD, but it's a very feast or famine play. He lands in the right spot and he's going to be FF gold on the field. He lands with (example) Seattle and you have a guy who never sees the field for 3-4+years. With the RBs-WRs-TEs...no matter how tough their situation they'll get a shot to prove themselves and maybe win everyone over. NFL doesn't give QBs that kind of rope usually.
Where does LJax land today and it be considered 'great' for FF? Considering the teams that need a QB and the likely ones they take in the draft ahead of LJax...where's LJax going to go to get a fair/good shake on purpose? What's some scenarios anyone sees?
I thought Jacksonville first...overtakes Bortles, but then I thought there's no way Coughlin/Marrone do that. Where's LJax going to get a fair shake...and it can't be a team drafting Darnold-Rosen-Allen, etc., because they won't do that to their new golden boy.
Where can LJax go (considering starting QB today and their coach) and get you excited? I'm asking because nothing is coming to mind right away but I haven't gone through team-by-team.
Is Buffalo going to draft LJax and make him the starter Day 1?
MC: big time boom-bust pick there by XC. Action Jackson could be a quick experiment if his coach never gains trust in his arm. After his painful-to-the-eyes combine performance where he had trouble throwing against air at times, I had to remind myself that this is a QB who attempted 1,086 passes in college (a hefty amount and 500 more than Josh Allen, 200 more than Darnold, and roughly the same number as Josh Rosen), plus probably another 5k attempts in practice. Lamar has a host of mechanical issues to correct and certainly more consistency to gain, but if he were a natural thrower of the football, these issues likely wouldn't be as pronounced now to begin with, so I personally wouldn't assume that they'll be readily correctible at the next level. Remember when Pat White got demolished by Pittsburgh's Lawrence Timmons when he was trying to act like a running back?
END: Jackson could land with the Bills, Saints, Steelers, Chargers, Cardinals, or Patriots as a planned future starter. At least a couple teams have him as the 2nd best QB allegedly and they consider him better than Watson from last year. I’ve also heard he didn’t interview well and several teams rate him as a middle round pick. So yes it very much depends on landing spot. I’m inclined to think some playoff team with an aging star picks him up as an early gamble.
Katz: I'm not super high on Lamar, but I am sure of one thing beyond a shadow of a doubt - he will be better than Josh Allen.
END: But...but...he’s got such a big arm!
MC: *note to self- feel free to hold off until my final pick to select Josh Allen*
Katz: Honestly, we could do a 10 round rookie draft and I still wouldn't take Josh Allen.
XC: Anywhere that Jackson lands and starts within a year is a good fantasy situation. If they draft him, they know what he is, and he'll run. He is likely going round 1. A lot of teams in the middle could take him if they miss out on the top four QBs. Dolphins, Bills, Cardinals, Ravens, Chargers. The Ravens and Chargers are less likely, but it is worth mentioning the risk there that Jackson could get stuck for 2-3 years. But the Dolphins, Bills, and Cardinals are looking for a QB to start fairly soon and they are not in position to get the top four QBs without trading up.
MC: *note to self: I don't think Katz likes Josh Allen*
Katz: In the interest of full disclosure, I also didn't think Deshaun Watson belonged in the NFL...like at all...as in not even as a backup. So that's a take that I had last year that clearly worked out very well.
MC: Miami won't be drafting Lamar. He's the antithesis of Adam Gase's system. If Buffalo wanted an athletic running QB, they could've just stuck with Tyrod Taylor, no? I'm guessing they want a guy who's arm can handle that northeast weather well. Chargers have too much invested in pass catchers to go with a QB who isn't of the throwing variety IMO.
END: I don't think Miami or Buffalo will take Jackson either, but it's something to consider. The Chargers however probably look at it like "well we've invested a lot in pass catchers so they can help him out if he's not that accurate." Like a good WR can make up for a bad QB. Hopkins and Allen Robinson would likely take offense to that statement but I digress. I'm just going to throw it out there again but what if New England takes Jackson? They need a QB, we all know this. Bobby Petrino runs similar verbiage to the Pats' system. That's one reason they drafted Ryan Mallett a few years ago. And finally, Belichick is the most creative thinker in the NFL. He took Aaron Hernandez and deployed him in a totally unique way that no one else had ever considered before. And that wouldn't be the first time he's done something similar. Also Josh McDaniels drafted Tebow. Tim freaking Tebow who couldn't throw an accurate ball to the flats. I should know, I saw him bounce one in the dirt at Percy Harvin's feet live at an Arkansas game. Jackson is better on his worst day as a pure QB than Tebow was on his best. That 1.04 pick by XC would instantly be worth triple to anyone in his dynasty league.
1.1 Saquon Barkley
1.2 Rashaad Penny
1.3 Courtland Sutton
1.4 Lamar Jackson
Katz: RC. You're on the clock!
RC: 1.05 Royce Freeman. I wrestled with this pick for a while as my draft turn popped up around midnight and laid my head on my pillow and thought about it for 30+ minutes...because I have a sad existence.
Do I take the running back I should at this spot? Do I take the RB I really want who I'm positive will be there at my #1.10...but I'll get cute and wait, play the chess board? Do I take a Derrius Guice-like value RB that I don't like -- just to trade him? Do I take one of the tight ends I've been touting but neither might be 1st round material?
I'm not considering a WR now that Courtland Sutton is gone because everything else pails at WR. With Lamar Jackson gone, there's not great fantasy QB for a 1.05 pick, per se.
I more excited about my 1.10 or 2.08, potentially, than this 1.05...with Sutton gone -- and that's a stark reality of the 2018 dynasty rookie draft for me, at this point in the process. No Sutton or Barkley? Let me out of the top 8-10-12 picks and back into the early 2nd round and picking up other assets with my 1st rounder.
Having to make this pick, and looking at it as taking a guy I'd want to keep/hold -- I take RB Royce Freeman. He fits what a lot of NFL head coaches want -- a power runner. A 229-pound, 4.54 running, 6.9 three-cone having, professional runner. He's built to be loved by the NFL. I'm a fan too.
My next picks are guys that will have to fight the NFL for relevance, but here I'll take a lay-up/playing it safe-smart (in my mind): Oregon RB Royce Freeman with my 1.05.
XC: With all of the RBs after Barkley, you hope that they land in a situation where they can catch a lot of passes, in addition to being the main ball carrier. For now, Freeman has good potential there. Big RBs are great. But I worry that most of them will end up as mainly two-down bangers, like a Carlos Hyde or Frank Gore. So you get a low-end RB1 or high-end RB2 at best. That's just ok. If they do all end up as two-down backs, then you want to have the best two-down back from the group—someone who can be a true RB1 despite limited catches like Fournette or Marshawn Lynch (Seahawks version).
RC: Exactly why I couldn't sleep 12-1230am. I feel like I 'settled' here, and when Freeman ends up on...Arizona, Cincy, Carolina, etc...I'll be crying my eyes out. I'll reveal who I started typing out before I settled on Freeman, when someone else picks him. I made this pick, already salivating on my 1.10 that is going to change the dynasty-fantasy landscape and make people go back to the drawing board! That's a tease...
I'm banking on Freeman landing strong with a team in need of that role and he just stretches it to be 'the guy'. Freeman in New England for 15+ TDs (and 800 yards rushing) in 2018??? But keenly aware the non-Barkley's are likely to land 'bad' for fantasy because there are too many good RBs in the world now. Every team will have two+ strong ones by 2020.
Even Barkley with Hyde-Duke is going to be bad ;)