The calendar reads August, NFL training camps are in full swing and preseason games are just around the corner, which means the fantasy football season is upon us! For diehard fantasy players, preparation for the upcoming season probably started as soon as the Super Bowl ended, but don’t worry there’s still plenty of time to catch up.
For hands-on practice, nothing beats a mock draft, which is exactly what 12 Athlon Sports editors and fantasy contributors did in early May. Of course, plenty of things have happened since then so keep that in mind when analyzing this mock draft. For example, Jeremy Maclin was still in Kansas City and Eric Decker was a Jet when this mock draft took place, among many other developments. And as the start to training camps have shown, injuries can and will happen, and will continue to right up until Week 1.
Below is a complete breakdown of the 12-team, 20-round IDP mock draft we conducted, along with some analysis of my own. This mock draft also can be found in Athlon Sports’ 2017 Fantasy Football magazine, which is available for purchase online and at newsstands everywhere. And for those who enjoy mock drafts, be sure to check out FantasyPros’ Mock Draft Simulator.
12-team, 20-round serpentine-style mock draft based on Athlon Sports standard scoring and with the following starting lineup: 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 Flex (RB/WR), 1 K, 1 DEF/ST, 1 DL, 1 LB, 1 DB, 1 Flex IDP (DL/LB/DB), 6 bench spots
Round 1 Analysis: When it comes to the “Who’s No. 1” debate, I took David Johnson with Ezekiel Elliott slipping to fourth behind Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. Between the three running backs it really comes down to personal preference as I don’t think you can go wrong with any of them at the top of the draft, even if Elliott ends up sitting a game or two to start the season. Otherwise, it’s a lot of familiar faces in the first round with a few new additions – Jordan Howard and Melvin Gordon. Once again there are no quarterbacks to be found, and looking ahead I don’t expect this trend to change.
Round 2 Analysis: All RBs and WRs except for Rob Gronkowski, which is not a direction I would have gone with my second pick. We all know what Gronk can do when healthy, but here’s the number to keep in mind – 24. That’s the total number of games Gronk has missed over the past five seasons combined. Not exactly a small sample size. Too much risk this early when there are some other TEs who have established themselves as more reliable and especially with the scarcity of legitimate workhorse RBs.
Round 3 Analysis: This round leads off with two No. 1 WRs that landed with new teams in the offseason. Alshon Jeffery could have a nice bounce-back season in Philadelphia while Brandin Cooks’ fit in New England is a little harder to define right now, although the potential for him to post WR1-worthy numbers remains. Among the other wideouts taken in this round, I’m not sure I can trust Allen Robinson as my WR1 after last season’s disappointment, while Sammy Watkins and Keenan Allen both represent significant injury risks. Christian McCaffrey is already getting rave reviews in training camp, so it wouldn’t surprise me if his ADP continues to rise to where he and Leonard Fournette (taken six picks earlier in this mock) battle each other for the distinction of being the first rookie taken in drafts.
Round 4 Analysis: We have our first quarterback! It makes complete sense that it’s Aaron Rodgers with Andrew Luck the only other one going in this round. Terrelle Pryor is a popular breakout pick now that he’s in Washington and with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon elsewhere, the opportunity is clearly there. Jackson's new teammate, Jordan Reed, remains a risk-reward player, so just be sure you have a solid backup TE if you draft him. C.J. Anderson also could be a bounce-back performer or a waste of an early-round pick because of his injury history. And even though Adrian Peterson is now in New Orleans, the Saints RB I want on my roster is Mark Ingram.
Round 5 Analysis: I may have reached a little for Corey Davis, but I am enamored with his potential in Tennessee. The same can be said for Joe Mixon, but it’s too early to discount Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard (see Round 11) in Cincinnati’s backfield plans at this point. It wouldn’t surprise me if Isaiah Crowell continues to rise in the rankings as we get closer to the season as I think he’s an underrated fantasy RB. I certainly would prefer him over Ty Montgomery, the converted wide receiver who is Green Bay’s top running back. But that doesn’t mean he will provide RB1 production.
Round 6 Analysis: Marshawn Lynch, Latavius Murray and Eddie Lacy are three other running backs on new teams this season. Which one should you trust? Lynch is probably the popular choice, but let’s not forget he didn’t play at all last season. Murray has Dalvin Cook breathing down his neck and is coming off of ankle surgery, which is impacting his training camp participation. And then there’s Lacy, whose weight has already made its share of headlines. For me, I would rather take my chances with Lacy, who could be Lynch 2.0 in Seattle, provided he stays healthy and in good shape. Also this mock was done before news of Mike Williams’ back issues came to light. Considering there’s a chance he could miss the entire season, it may be safest to just remove San Diego's first-round pick from your draft board altogether.
Round 7 Analysis: The back end of this round sees a trio of intriguing running backs taken. Mike Gillislee could be a touchdown machine like LeGarrette Blount was in 2016 or he could become Bill Belichick’s latest fantasy casualty at RB. Paul Perkins could break out in his second season with the Giants or he may not get enough carries to be fantasy revelant because Eli Manning has so many weapons to throw to. Kareem Hunt could emerge as Kansas City’s top backfield option or he could be part of a committee approach. This just goes to show the risk-reward factor that seems to be the rule rather than the exception when it comes to the running back position.
Round 8 Analysis: Doug Martin appears to be on shaky ground in Tampa Bay, while DeSean Jackson’s arrival has many excited about Jameis Winston’s outlook for 2017. Even though Corey Davis is the hot commodity in Tennessee, don’t overlook Eric Decker’s potential with the Titans considering Rishard Matthews was the team's top WR last season. And just because Christian McCaffrey is making all the headlines in Panthers’ training camp that doesn’t make Jonathan Stewart irrelevant, at least not yet.
Round 9 Analysis: We finally have our first IDPs to come off of the board, and the first one taken wasn’t J.J. Watt or Khalil Mack. It was Giants CB Landon Collins, who was huge as a rookie, although it may be risky to expect a repeat performance, especially at this point in the draft. Even though I didn’t take an IDP in this round, if I had it would have been the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year (Mack) over the guy who had won it the previous two seasons. Watt is a stud when he’s healthy, but that’s becoming more of an issue. Luke Kuechly also has some risk associated with him after suffering a concussion that caused him to miss the final six games. Also, you can forget about Kenneth Dixon since he’s done for the season after having surgery to repair a torn medial meniscus. This increases Terrance West’s and Danny Woodhead’s fantasy appeal.
Round 10 Analysis: Would you rather have a veteran RB like Matt Forte or Adrian Peterson or take a chance on a rookie like Samaje Perine or Jamaal Williams? Those are the types of questions one will have to weigh once you get into the middle rounds. Among these options, I would prefer Peterson, but only if I am set with my top two starters. Both Perine and Williams are in situations where they could see significant touches, but unless either is anointed the starter before the season starts you will have to be in a position where you can afford to have them bide their time on your bench.
Round 11 Analysis: So what does Joe Mixon’s arrival in Cincinnati mean for Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard moving forward? Barring a trade or injury, both figure to get touches. It’s just a matter of how many. Bernard would appear to be the safer bet because of his pass-catching abilities, but he’s also coming back from a torn ACL. This is definitely a situation that bears watching as the preseason progresses. I’m not ready to completely give up on Hill, but it’s not like he hasn’t let his owners down before either. This may end up being one backfield I avoid entirely come draft day.
Round 12 Analysis: So how deep is quarterback? Deep enough that in this mock Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, two guys many expect to emerge as top-10 fantasy options this season, go in Round 12. And why anyone is even willing to waste a draft pick on Josh Gordon is beyond me.
Rounds 13 and 14 Analysis: I think anyone would be thrilled to get Kirk Cousins, Ben Roethlisberger or Dak Prescott this late. I wouldn’t count on this holding true by the time your draft rolls around, even in an IDP league. While there are plenty of intriguing rookie RBs, I’m not sure I would put Alvin Kamara in that category just yet with Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson clearly ahead of him on the depth chart. John Ross also may be not be a surefire reliable contributor as a rookie with A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert and even Tyler Boyd (as well as the RBs) also in the mix for targets for Cincinnati. Even though Kenneth Dixon’s injury helps Terrance West’s fantasy stock, he still could be a potential steal on draft day depending on how others in your league view him. I would take my chances with West rather than Jamaal Charles, who is trying to revive his career in Denver.
Rounds 15 and 16 Analysis: While the additions of Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram don’t guarantee Eli Manning will put up big numbers this season, I fully expect him to rise in the QB pecking order between now and when the season starts. I love the breakout potential of Carson Wentz now that he has a year under his belt and new weapons to throw to, but I’ll defer to Manning over him and the others taken in these two rounds, as well as a few guys that were picked earlier.
Rounds 17 and 18 Analysis: Spoiler alert – this mock draft was completed just prior to LeGarrette Blount signing a one-year deal with Philadelphia, so what initially was a flyer pick paid off even before the season started. Don’t expect Blount to last near this long in your draft, although it’s also not wise to expect similar production (especially the TDs) with the Eagles. Blount’s arrival does cloud Wendell Smallwood’s outlook, but I would still take him over Darren Sproles if those were the options.
Rounds 19 and 20 Analysis: I have no problem whatsoever taking a flyer on a rookie like James Conner or Curtis Samuel at this point in the draft or even a veteran like Tyler Lockett. Just make sure you have all your positions covered and there’s not a better/safer option available before doing so. That’s especially the case when it comes to quarterback. If Deshaun Watson is your No. 3 QB, then by all means take a chance on him. I just don’t know how comfortable I would feel if he was my backup entering the season, even if Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady or Drew Brees was my QB1.