Who here hasn't don't a mock draft yet? If you haven't, you're doing it wrong. Mock drafts are a great tool for fantasy players as you move toward your real drafts, as they give you an idea of where you can expect to see players drafted and when they will be available to you. I'd recommend Fantasy Pros' Draft Wizard (both on their site and through the app) for your mocks, as it allows you to draft against a smart A.I. and you don't have to worry about actual people auto-drafting from the start. It also allows you to do several mocks in the amount of time that you would usually only be able to fit in one with other people.
Here we'll take a look at some of the best values based on Average Draft Position (ADP) in drafts. The numbers you'll see next to each player's name, position and team will show which round they're being drafted in, the pick in that round (ex: 1.01 through 1.12, as I'll be using a 12-team league format as the base), their overall draft slot and where they're being taken at their position. I've used information from fantasypros.com for this as well, where they use consensus ADP stats from six different sites. I'll be trying to highlight one value in each round as we review Rounds 1 through 8 today, with Part 2 containing the later rounds to come in a few days. Let's get into some fantasy football goodness!
A.J. Green WR CIN - 1.12, #12 Overall, WR #6
Ok, so it's kind of hard to pick a value in the 1st round, but I wanted to remind everyone of just how good A.J. Green is. He's never had less than 1000 receiving yards in his 5-year career and he's only missed double digit touchdowns twice: in his rookie year, when he had 7, and in 2014, when he missed 3 entire games and parts of others due to injury. With WRs Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones both leaving town and TE Tyler Eifert being at least somewhat limited going into the season with a bum ankle, Green should see a ton of targets from QB Andy Dalton. He is currently going with the last pick of the 1st round and is the 6th wide receiver off the board, but I'd take him as the 4th WR somewhere in the mid-1st.
Lamar Miller RB HOU - 2.01, #13 Overall, RB #6
So, yeah, Miller is technically going with the first pick of the 2nd round on average and some of you might think this is cheating, as he often does go in the 1st. But I consider Miller as being in the same tier as the top backs in the draft and if someone wanted to take him in the Top-5 Overall I'd have no issue with it. When he had the ball in his hands in Miami, Miller was great. He just wasn't given enough work! According to Pro Football Reference, Miller has 185 fantasy points in each of the past two seasons and he's only had 254 and 241 total touches (rushes and receptions combined), respectively. That was good enough to make him the #9 RB in fantasy in 2014 and #6 RB in 2015. Now he's a part of a Texans team that has had the 1st and 5th most rushing attempts in the past two seasons respectively since Bill O'Brien took over as Head Coach. Miller is going to be a beast. Mark it down.
LeSean McCoy RB BUF - 3.02, #26 Overall, RB #12
McCoy has a long fantasy history we can look at that shows us what he can do. He was actually really good for his owners last season when he was on the field, his first in Buffalo, he just wasn't able to stay healthy. The Bills had the top rushing offense in the league last season and everybody and their mother knows that Rex Ryan is going to run the ball and try to play strong defense (and hopefully throw a few deep balls to Sammy Watkins). And it's not like they just had a ton of attempts and were inefficient last year, they were tied for the highest yards per rush at 4.8. McCoy only started 12 games last season and was able to rack up 235 total touches and he finished right around #17 among RBs in fantasy. With backup Karlos Williams suspended for the first 4 games and the team being forced to sign Reggie Bush just to fill in the depth chart, I see a ton of touches coming for McCoy. As long as he can stay healthy, he should provide great value in the 3rd round, where I've drafted him consistently in mocks and I like him better than guys like Doug Martin and Eddie Lacy, who are going in the 2nd.
Latavius Murray RB OAK - 4.03, #39 Overall, RB #17
The volume! Murray finished last season with 307 total touches, which was good for 4th in the league. Now, he wasn't particularly efficient with those touches, as he averaged exactly 4.0 yards per carry and only scored 6 total TDs. To that I would say that it was Murray's first full season as a starter and now with a full year in Oakland's offense as the starter, as well as the continued growth of the rest of the team around him (Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, a strong offensive line, etc.), I really like Murray to take a step up. The Raiders did draft DeAndre Washington earlier this year in an attempt to push Murray and possibly take a few touches away from him, but there's no way I can see him overtaking Murray for that job. And even if you are worried about that, you can easily get Washington very late in the draft as a handcuff. Oh, and it doesn't hurt when the head coach says he wants to get you even more carries than you had the previous season, as Jack Del Rio did recently for Murray according to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle. I've drafted Murray consistently in the Round 3-4 turn in mocks and I love getting him there as a steady #2 RB who also as some high upside.
Jonathan Stewart RB CAR - 5.01, #49 Overall, RB #20
No, nobody is going to think Stewart is a "sexy" pick whenever you draft him...but they didn't last year either! The knock on Stewart has always been injury (which is valid) and he doesn't score a ton of TDs (also valid), but still, he finished as the #16 RB in fantasy and was extremely consistent after the Panthers' Week 5 bye. The guy had at least 20 carries in 8 of 9 games (8 straight, in fact) from Week 6-14 and had at least 12 fantasy points in all but 2 of those games. Stewart then sat out the final 3 games of the season due to injury which, again, is the risk with him. But if you're only investing a 5th round pick on him, where's the real downside? Carolina was 2nd in the league in rushing yards last season -- and 1st in attempts -- and we know that their offense will continue to operate through the running game. He also has the good fortune of sharing a backfield with Cam Newton, who definitely helps slow the defense down when it comes to focusing in on the running back. Stewart is one of my favorite #2 RBs to draft and you can get him as your flex a good portion of the time. I'd take him ahead of guys like Matt Forte, Carlos Hyde, Jeremy Hill and DeMarco Murray, who are all being drafted ahead of him on average.
As a little bonus, keep your eyes peeled for WRs Jeremy Maclin and Eric Decker in the 5th as well. These guys don't seem to get any respect and both are very solid WR2 options who aren't flashy. I like both of them better than their ADP price.
Melvin Gordon RB SD - 6.09, #69 Overall, RB #25
The running back love continues! Gordon was a disaster last year and to say he disappointed fantasy owners (and his actual NFL owner I'm sure) would be a major understatement. He finished with 641 yards on 184 carries, averaging just 3.5 yards per attempt and scoring, that's right, zero total touchdowns. So why do I have Gordon on this list? Well, in short, because it's the 6th round! The more I look at Gordon's situation, the more I think he could definitely be a post-hype sleeper and I believe the Chargers offense is going to be sneaky strong this season. Philip Rivers is always going to put up numbers at QB, Antonio Gates is apparently ageless (look out for him in Part 2 - that's called foreshadowing!), Keenan Allen is back from a freak injury last season and they added a deep threat in the form of Travis Benjamin. I know they have Danny Woodhead there competing with Gordon for touches, but Woodhead isn't the future of that team and Gordon actually caught 33 passes last year on 37 targets. That's more than you would've guessed, right? In fact, Gordon took a pass 44 yards for a TD in the Chargers first preseason game last weekend. I'm not opposed to taking him in the 5th round, but if you can get him in the 6th, and I have been consistently, I like it a lot. I'm telling you! Post-hype sleeper!
DeSean Jackson WR WAS - 7.09, #81 Overall, WR #34
Hey look, a receiver! The hate has gone too far on Jackson, who has always been a boom-or-bust kind of player. Last year, Jackson missed basically the entire first half of the season, finally making his way back from injury after Washington's Week 8 bye. He basically played in 8 games (as he missed Week 17 as well) and scored at least 12 fantasy points in half of those games. Unfortunately, he scored 4 or less fantasy points in the other 4 games. Alas, that's the game you play when you have Jackson. But this is a guy who was the #9 wide receiver in 2013 and #16 in 2014 and he's going in the 7th round as the 34th WR off the board! I know it can be a headache to make the start-or-sit decision on him, but if you need someone who can boom in your flex spot, this is the type of guy who can randomly win you a few weeks on his own. It doesn't hurt that the Redskins' offense should continue on an upward trajectory either.
Rashad Jennings RB NYG - 8.05, #89 Overall, RB #35
The Giants' backfield was a mess last year, as they couldn't decide which of their 4 backs to roll with at any given time. Jennings, Shane Vereen, Andre Williams and even Orleans Darkwa all got some run in this true RBBC. But this year is going to be different! Jennings didn't get more than 13 carries in any game last season until Week 14, when he got at least 14 in each of the final 4 games. During those games, he averaged 108 rushing yards per game on 5.46 yards per carry and scored 15.5 fantasy points per game. With that in mind, there have been many reports that Jennings will get the first shot at the Giants' lead back when the season opens and as long as he's on the field (his health always bears monitoring) he should provide fantasy owners value as a high-end flex or even a RB2 if you're in a bind. You can't beat that in the 8th round.
Marvin Jones WR DET - 8.07, #91 Overall, WR #38
You get a 2-for-1 here, as I can't ignore new Lions WR Jones, who's being drafted two picks after Jennings at #91 Overall as the 38th WR off the board. I really like Jones as a high-upside player in a Lions offense that has to fill the target-void left by Calvin Johnson. I expect counterpart Golden Tate to see a high volume of targets as well, but Jones is being drafted about 4 rounds later and is the best deep threat on the team by far. Watch out for him in this range, as he has a chance to become the #1 WR on an offense that finished last season really strong under Offensive Coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. Also, keep an eye out for the guy throwing him the ball, who will make an appearance in Part 2.
That's it for Part 1, check back for in the next few days for Part 2 to find some great late round values!