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Fantasy Football 2014: Mock Draft Evaluation
Here It Goes Again!
It's that time of year again, folks! Mock draft season is upon us. Fantasy football season is approaching quickly and in order to best your competition you'll need to head into your mock drafts with orchestrated, strategic advantages. This month, I went through this 10-team mock snake draft with the #2 overall pick. We'll go through each addition, one-by-one, and I'll explain to you why I went with each pick.
Before we begin, here are a few draft tips to consider:
1. Take running backs early. Everything those "experts" at ESPN have been saying about running backs? Yeah, they're actually right on this one. The NFL has been less run-oriented than ever lately, and when it comes to value at their position, a great stable of tailbacks can give your team the extra oomph it needs to succeed. If you already know you want Aaron Rodgers or Calvin Johnson in the first round, that's great. Just know you may be missing out on Le'Veon Bell or Matt Forte when your team could really use a great back.
2. Know when to play it safe. Let's say it's the date of your draft day. So far you've picked two good running backs and a great wideout. You'd prefer to draft another wideout, but somehow you see Matt Stafford has slipped all the way to the 5th round. As promising as Vincent Jackson or Eric Decker may seem to you, carefully consider the value of each player left available. I would say nabbing Stafford in the 5th round would be a pretty great pick for top-5 quarterback, as Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and perhaps even Nick Foles may be gone by then. It's important to grab great players for your starting and flex positions, but don't forget consistency at the other positions can be important too.
3. Wide receiver and tight end positions are very top-heavy. If you're thinking about drafting a wideout as high as the second round, be aware of how far you're stretching. Outside of some big-name pass watchers (Megatron, Dez Bryant, AJ Green, etc.), there are quite a few question marks at the receiver position. How will Emmanuel Sanders' arrival impact Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker? Will Andre Johnson remain with the Houston Texans this season? What about Julio Jones do as he returns from injury? If you don't grab one of the stars, I'd wait until at least the 4th round (all things permitting) to grab next-tier receivers like Roddy White and Victor Cruz. Likewise, outside of Jimmy Graham (and perhaps Julius Thomas) you shouldn't be drafting any tight end before the 3rd round. There are a lot of injury questions for Rob Gronkowski; normally he'd be gone right away, but we don't know how he'll fare as he returns from ACL/MCL surgery.
4. Don't worry about bye weeks. People worry about these for little reason, I believe. While it's great if you can grab Larry Fitzgerald and AJ Green, it could potentially mean that you need clutch receivers in Week 5 while the two have their bye that weekend. At the end of the day, they really aren't going to affect you that much. If they really do concern you, feel free to offer players up as trade bait! Maybe you can get that FLEX RB you really wanted or a great THE.
Now, let the draft begin!
Round 1: Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
At #2 overall, you can pick anyone you want to (except for Lesean McCoy, in the case of this draft). I wanted an elite running back who's also involved in the passing game, and I get that in Jamaal Charles. He's a ridiculous one-man show in Kansas City; despite offensive line issues, he enjoyed a monster season in 2013. I'm betting on him being utilized even more effectively by Andy Reid in 2014.
You can certainly make the argument that I should have picked Adrian Peterson, and I can certainly see where you would be coming from. But Charles is going to get a ton of carries, catch a lot of passes, and score some amazing touchdowns. Neither is the wrong choice, but I've decided to put my money on Kansas City.
Round 2: Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Jones was on pace for a ridiculous 131 receptions and over 1800 receiving yards in 2013 before breaking his foot in Week 5. Thanks to this injury, Jones slipped to me all the way down at the 19th overall pick. Considering Megatron, Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall, AJ Green, Jimmy Graham, and Demaryius Thomas are all gone by this point, I'm more than grateful to be nabbing a potential top 5 pass-catcher at the bottom of the second round.
Round 3: Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
I was hoping to grab Le'Veon Bell with this pick, but he was taken one spot above me. Instead, I use the 22nd overall pick to grab Gio Bernard and I couldn't be more pleased. Simply put, Bernard finished as the 18th running back in fantasy points in the 2013 season, as that was as an acting backup. I expect Bernard to be apply the experience he gained from last season and put up even more impressive numbers in 2014; a dynamic back like Bernard won't stay obscure for long this year!
Round 4: Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers
Randall Cobb is one of the most dangerous receivers in the NFC. With his speed, hands, and versatility, he evokes images of a more durable Percy Harvin, and that sounds great to me! Cobb proved last year that he could produce even with Eddie Lacy and Jordy Nelson on the field at the same time. In fact, before he went down with a fractured leg, both he and Nelson were top-10 fantasy receivers. I have no doubts about the potential Cobb has for 2014; I'm outstandingly pleased to grab a playmaker like Cobb, who also happens to be one of my favorite players!
Round 5: Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions have a new head coach in Jim Caldwell, who will stimulate more discipline within the Lions organization than Jim Schwartz was ever able to do. Because of this, I think the historically-boneheaded blunders of the Lions will be noticeably reduced in 2014, leading to more opportunities for the Lions offense to put up points on the scoreboard. With Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush, Joique Bell, Golden Tate, and rookie tight end Eric Ebron all on the field, I expect a monster season for Stafford. Factored into an offense that throws the ball often, there is some serious potential for last year's #7 quarterback.
Round 6: Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals
Bruce Arians, head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, recently stated that Ellington would get about 25-30 touches per game. Do I really believe that? Well, no, not really. The NFL hasn't seen a 400+ carry season by a running back since Larry Johnson in 2006, which was also one of only five times it's happened in league history. However, Arians' statement certainly implies that he wants to use Ellington far more often in 2014, and a talented player receiving a ton of work means massive fantasy points for me!
Round 7: Rashad Jennings, RB, New York Giants
Rashad Jennings took some time to blossom last season, but when he did emerge against the Philadelphia Eagles he became one of the most exciting fantasy adds in 2013. During the seven-week period from Weeks 9 to 15, Jennings averaged 14.42 points a game (despite missing time to injury). In context, Marshawn Lynch, who finished as 2013's #4 running back, averaged 14 fantasy points per game. If he can receive a consistent workload as a New York Giant, I expect him to be an excellent FLEX play with upside.
Round 8: Michael Floyd, WR, Arizona Cardinals
Doubters may question how effective Floyd can be in 2014. I can see where they're coming from; Michael Floyd isn't exactly a household name amongst wide receivers. However, Floyd quietly caught 65 balls for 1041 yards and 5 touchdowns last year. With another offseason spent mastering Bruce Arians' vertical offense, there's some real potential for Floyd to bust out an incredible season. I've got some high hopes for the third-year pro!
Round 9: Toby Gerhart, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
I'll never understand how Toby Gerhart fell all the way down to the 9th round when running backs like Maurice Jones-Drew and Trent Richardson were picked several rounds ahead of him. Averaging a career 4.7 yards per carry (including a ridiculous 7.9 yards per carry last season), I believe he has the skill set to enjoy an excellent season as the workhorse for the Jacksonville Jaguars, who may be a better team than you think. I'm looking forward to seeing what Gerhart will do with an opportunity like this, and I'm betting he makes quite a few plays for the Jaguars in 2014.
Round 10: Kendall Wright, WR, St. Louis Rams
Kendall Wright isn't exactly a superstar, but the guy caught 94 passes for 1079 yards last year. That's pretty darn good. With the potential to improve even more in 2014, I don't mind having Wright stashed on my bench. If the quarterback play from the Tennessee Titans can improve, Wright will become even more formidable.
Round 11: Kyle Rudolph, THE, Minnesota Vikings
After racking up nearly 500 yards and 9 touchdowns in 2012, Rudolph was a lost commodity last year as the Minnesota Vikings' quarterback play tanked. However, Rudolph has the potential of being a top-5 tight end.
"Why?" you might say. Well, before last season no one had heard of Jordan Cameron either, and he broke out last season with a Pro Bowl nod, a top-5 fantasy finish, and 917 yards with 7 touchdowns.
Why do I mention Cameron's success? The Browns' offensive coordinator last season, Norv Turner, is now in charge of the Vikings' play calling. With successful performances from Antonio Gates and Jordan Cameron on his resume, you can almost certainly say that Kyle Rudolph will be targeted plenty of times in 2014. I'm betting he makes the leap and thanking Norv in advance!
Round 12: Patriots Defense
The best defenses in the NFL don't always translate over to fantasy football success, but in this instance I'm willing to make the gamble, especially since we're in the 12th round. As I've mentioned previously, I'm expecting massive improvements from the Patriots defense in 2014. With Vince Wilfork returning, along with the offseason acquisitions of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, the Patriots defense has the potential to close in on the Seattle Seahawks defense.
Speaking of the Hawks, the Seahawks defense was taken in the 5th round of this draft. While I'm sure not having to stream defenses is incredibly convenient, that person missed out on players like Russell Wilson, Vernon Davis, and Michael Crabtree. Drafting is all about finding value; I think nabbing a Belichick/Revis defense in the 12th round is a worthy selection!
Round 13: Riley Cooper, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Desean Jackson has left the roost and Jeremy Maclin is returning from a torn ACL. While Darren Sproles and Lesean McCoy will be sure to pick up the slack, someone has to line up as wideout for the Philadelphia Eagles. Why can't it be Cooper? Last season he caught 8 touchdowns with over 800 yards. With a more prominent role in a Chip Kelly-led offense, I don't mind having Cooper on my bench for some quality depth.
Round 14: Delanie Walker, THE, Tennessee Titans
Delanie Walker isn't a particularly exciting pick, but it's the 14th round. Last year, Walker finished as the 12th fantasy tight end. If nothing else, he'll be a perfectly adequate replacement during Rudolph's bye week, with the potential of being even more if a Titans quarterback can step up.
Round 15: Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams
After years of being labeled "overrated", Bradford was actually underrated last season. Before he was lost for the season with a torn ACL, Bradford had thrown 14 touchdowns to only 4 interceptions, posting a 90.9 quarterback rating. In the 15th round, I have no problem grabbing a quarterback like Sam Bradford; if he's healthy this season, he has the potential to earn some decent passing accolades as the list of the Rams offensive weapons continues to grow.
Round 16: Nick Novak, K, San Diego Chargers
The Chargers offense exploded in 2013 under a resurging Philip Rivers, finishing as the #5 offense. While there's no guarantee the Chargers will remain that effective in 2014, even a top-10 finish from the offense will allow plenty of kicking opportunities for Novak.
Fantasy Draft Lineup
ESPN Projected Position Ranking (2014)