Early OTAs are starting up, so the Mock Draft season begins. Today I did my first few mocks of the season, and have picks 1-20 ready to go. We’ll go through my top 20 below.
These are PPR rankings for 1QB, 2RB, 2WR, 1TE, 1TE/WR/RB, PK, DEF rosters.
1) Jamaal Charles, RB, KC (9) –
I have a history of loving Jamaal Charles and so far he’s been pretty good to me. I think Andy Reid continues to improve the offense with the addition of Jeremy Maclin and a healthy (and hopefully heavily utilized) Travis Kelce. While the offense improves, it doesn’t improve by leaps and bounds. The Chiefs will still have to rely on Charles to do the heavy lifting. Reid has a great history of TD’s, receptions, and yardage production from the RB spot. I expect that trend to continue this year with Charles.
He finished #7 last year in 15 games, getting nicked up a few times throughout the year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few guys finish with more points at the end of the year, but Charles is just the right amount potential and safety to warrant the #1 overall selection. If you subscribe to handcuffing, Knile Davis, going at 9.10 according to FFCaculator, and he is clearly a capable #2.
2) Adrian Petersen, RB, Min (5) –
Petersen will play in Minnesota, whether he does so under a new contract or not is the only real question. The Vikings need Petersen and Big Purple is good for All Day too. Teddy and Norv have a pretty good thing going, add the best running back of the decade and we might see Purple Reign in the NFC North.
Petersen is one of the few transformational players out there. He’ll out run old age for a few years yet, and Teddy can do more than any QB Petersen has played with in quite some time. The Vikings’ youth took some good steps at the end of the year, the coaching staff remains intact. I’ll take my chances with Petersen.
3) Rob Gronkowski, TE, NE (4)
Rob Gronkowski is one of my favorite players to watch, a caricature of a football player. He is a giant that is either too big or too athletic for you to cover. He wants to hit you, and he will pull that pass down. He plays with a Hall of Fame quarterback who realizes a good matchup when he sees it, and you’ve always got the matchup advantage with Gronk.
Gronkowski gives you too much more than the next best TE. You might find the next hot thing at WR or RB on the waiver wire or very late in drafts, but you won’t find Gronk’s equal. Brady’s suspension factors heavily in to this ranking. If we hear Brady only misses 1 or even 2 games, Gronk will move to #1 on this list.
4) Eddie Lacy, RB, GB (7) –
Lacy closed the year strong, very strong. He started out last season posting 7, 8, and 5 point efforts. He had a 4 point outing in week 6 at Miami. It was smooth sailing for Lacy owners otherwise. There are a lot of mouths to feed in Green Bay, but there is no shortage of fantasy points to be had.
Lacy may take a bigger piece of the pie this year if the Pack can finally shake the injury bug along their front line. Green Bay may limit Lacy’s touches again, but I think he’ll still be quite productive if they do.
5) Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pit (11) -
Bell is a true 3 down, workhorse back who is hitting his prime on a team with a top 5 quarterback and one of the best wide outs in the game. Le’Veon is also suspended for the first 3 games of the year (at least for now). He can do everything really well and his team asks him to do it all, a lot.
If his suspension doesn’t bother you, and I’m not going to say you’re wrong there, he’s the #1 overall back. I only drop him this far myself because of the suspension and reports that his knee has not yet recovered. For me, a suspension is much more manageable than a potentially nagging knee injury for a smaller, agile back.
6) CJ Anderson, RB, DEN (7)
I reveal a few feelings with this ranking of CJ Anderson: I Think CJ Anderson is a very good, versatile back, smart enough to see and take advantage of a great opportunity, I trust Gary Kubiak’s offense, Peyton Manning is still good enough to do plenty of damage, and the Broncos will score a bunch this year.
My bias to go running back early and often shows here too. I do not believe there is any one right strategy for drafting, love and welcome the debate, but also believe the scarcity of big workload running backs pushes RB value up.
7) Marshawn Lynch, RB, Sea (9)
Seattle is transforming from the defensive-juggernaut-with-a-run game Super Bowl champs to a more balanced team (see the Steelers transition from Super Bowl XL to Super Bowl XLIII). Free agency is forcing the Seahawks to let good pieces walk away from their defense, but they also helped out Russell Wilson with the addition of Jimmy Graham. There is plenty of room for Wilson to grow the offense to satisfy hungry Graham owners, but also reward This My Son.
When Jimmy gets mauled in the end zone and draws that pass interference, Marshawn will benefit from a few 1 yard plunges. There is just too much talent with the big three in Seattle. Defenses will have to pick their poison and that pick will vary from week to week. I see Seattle remaining a powerhouse, but by doing more on offense. More offense equals more red zone trips for This My Son, and I want a piece of that.
8) Matt Forte, RB, Chi (7)
I really missed out on the Matt Forte era. He was always ranked just a little too high, didn’t seem to have the upside, and couldn’t possibly be picked ahead of (insert name of the guy that finished behind Forte). He is one of the most consistent, high upside backs we’ve seen over the past 3 or 4 years. Here he is again, # 8 in my rankings when he could easily finish top 3 (that would make 3 years in a row).
John Fox likes to run. Even if he decides to make Forte rush it inside, Forte can do it. He is getting up there in age but looked like he hadn’t lost a step last year. The Bears will need him, and Cutler is a capable enough quarterback to put up points.
I’m sorry that I always rank you too low Mr. Forte, and I hope that I have done so again this year. You’re the one that got away.
9) Dez Bryant, WR, Dal (6)
It’s hard to put anyone not named Antonio Brown as my #1 wide receiver, but guys just don’t have repeat #1 WR performances enough to bet on it. Bryant has as good a chance as any of the receivers in the next tier to finish as WR1 next year.
Bryant is a dominant, prototypical wide receiver on a team with a capable quarterback and potent offense. A potent offense, in large part, due to Bryant’s unstoppable combination of size, speed, quickness, hands and hops. The Cowboy’s rely on Dez and he can carry the load. There are likely some yards and touchdowns to be had with DeMarco Murray’s departure, and I could sure see Dez setting some records both while hitting his prime and while he’s due a new contract.
10) Antonio Brown, WR, Pit (11)
Brown is both an athletic freak and blueprint for the new breed of receivers we’re seeing in the NFL. Brown is too quick, big enough, and does a great job fighting for the ball. With the league keeping a lid on lighting up receivers going across the middle and contact with the receiver beyond 5 yards, Brown is tough enough to take advantage of his killer speed and quicks.
I almost forgot to mention he has amazing hands, is certainly his quarterback’s favorite target, and he’ll be playing for an offense projected to put up beaucoup points.
11) Julio Jones, WR, Atl (10)
Julio Jones ticks all the boxes. He’s big, has great hands, killer speed, fights for the ball, and has a capable quarterback. Atlanta is in transition with a new coach and what I expect will be a strong running game to compliment Matt Ryan’s receiving corps.
The defense in Atlanta is still a work in progress so they will have push it on offense. I think Julio puts it together this year, taking more work from an aging Roddy White, staying healthy, and coming back to the norm for TDs with that kind of production (6 TDs last year, 1593 yards).
12) Demaryius Thomas, WR, Den (7)
Thomas is an open field monster paired with an exceptionally accurate short ball thrower. I don’t believe Manning is going to take a huge step back, and Kubiak’s offenses have plenty of room for a couple of talented receivers to make hay.
I expect the Broncos will run the ball a ton, throw a lot of wide receiver screens, and throw a lot of 15 yard crosses off of play action. Thomas is unstoppable on those routes. He’ll continue to be a great option this year to get consistent points on your roster.
13) Arian Foster, RB, Hou (9)
Arian Foster starts the second running back tier. This is a group of backs that will either well out perform their ADP, or be one of the main culprits in your season’s demise. This is that group of really, really good players that have a blemish, or potential blemish, or perhaps, just a perceived blemish.
The Texans’ offense will not be spectacular this year but they will run the ball effectively. Foster is getting on in years, but I don’t think he’s done for just yet. He does everything well, and the quarterback depth chart indicates that O’Brien and Co. will demand he do it all, again.
Foster has shouldered a heavy load and injuries have affected his production. He could be a top five back, or be a game time decision all year.
14) DeMarco Murray, RB, Phi (8)
DeMarco Murray is coming off a great year. He looked great all year and finished strong. He played behind a good offensive line (and yes, it was good – the offseason narrative has made the Dallas o-line the best the world has ever seen). Murray can catch, pass protect, run inside, or take it to the corner store if you ask him to.
I expect the Eagles will continue to be among the highest scoring teams in the league, and Murray could easily put up a TD per game. Chip Kelly loves to run (in his 2 years, he’s had the 1st and 3rd ranked RB in total rushing yards). But, Murray is on a new team and coming off a big workload. He’ll share in Philly but retains top 5 up-side.
15) Jeremy Hill, RB, Cin (7)
Jeremy Hill looked great at the end of last season for Cincinnati. His unclear role as workhorse or part time back is the main culprit in his ranking at 15. He looked very good at the end of the year, and the Bengals do enough to at least make the playoffs every season.
I expect he’ll follow up his strong 2014 campaign with an even better 2015, but Gio is just too good for Jeremy to get all the work. There should be plenty of work to keep Hill busy, and maybe enough for him to creep in to the top 5-7 RBs.
16) Calvin Johnson, WR, Det (9)
Calvin Johnson has finished 1, 5, and 16 from years ago to last year. Clearly a downward trend, my ranking here shows I hope it is a misleading one. Megatron had some injuries last year, and the Lions really struggled to keep it together on O.
A talented backfield with Joique Bell, Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah helps the Lions keep it balanced on offense this year. If you’re not able to sell out to cover Calvin, he will make you pay for it. I’m betting on another strong year from Calvin.
17) Jordy Nelson, WR, GB (7)
I’ve been higher on Jordy than most for the past few years and I will be again this year, most likely. Nelson is in a 1, 1A receiver corps for the best quarterback in the NFL right now. A guy pegged as not that fast, he sure seemed to end up behind all the guys defense frequently last year.
Jordy has to share but there is plenty to go around. Aaron Rogers threw for under 4400 yards in 2014, a poor year by Rodgers’ standards. If you think that Rodgers lights it up this year, you have to start with ranking his #1 target high on your board.
18) Randall Cobb, WR GB (7)
If you’re predicting a monster year for Rogers, you better rank Cobb somewhere close to Jordy. These 2 receivers and Eddie Lacy in the backfield force defenses to make bad decisions. Aaron Rodgers will capitalize on those bad decisions in a record-breaking year.
Cobb decided to stay in one of the most potent offenses in the NFL, with the leagues’ best passer. He’s too quick, he can run all the routes, has great hands, and always seems to be the guy that is open when Rogers starts to scramble around. He’ll do a lot to reward owners that draft him this year.
19) Odell Beckham Jr., WR, NYG (11)
This is me buying in to the hype, but also slotting Beckham low enough to say he likely just won’t end up on any of my rosters this year. He looked great, and I am a big believer in the Giant offense improving in 2015. He has sticky hands and enough speed and raw talent to outperform even Antonio Brown. I will usually miss out on giant 2nd year expectations, wanting to see more before I invest a premium pick on a 2nd year player that isn’t a running back.
20) TY Hilton, WR Ind (10)
For this to be the first Colt off the board says something. I don’t know what that is just yet, but it is curious. Indy upgraded their receiver group, and I still believe in Frank Gore. I think the added talent enhances Hilton’s game, and that he remains one of Luck’s favorites.
Hilton is another guy that is just too quick, he’s just too fast, too. He is a big problem for defenses and seems to have a great rapport with Luck. Hilton didn’t enter the league a finished product, improving year over year. Luck knows a good matchup when he sees it, and Hilton can beat all kinds of coverage. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hilton took another big step this year, adding to the wave of smaller, quick, young, unstoppable receivers.