The Blind Corner: A Mock Draft Reflection
There are many roster-building strategies one can employ in both redraft leagues and dynasty start-up, i.e. zero running back, zero wide receivers, modified zero running back or wide receiver, late round quarterback, etc. None are necessarily wrong, except for taking a quarterback early, we both can recognize that is wrong…
FFStatistics Way Too Early Mock Draft
It just so happens that both John Hogue (@Superflexdude) and Sam Lane (@FFStompy) have nearly exact opposite strategies. They also happened to be picking right next to each other at the turn of the FFStatistics’ (@FFStatistics_) way-too-early, 14-team, redraft mock draft on Sleeper App. The following is an explanation of John’s and Sam’s differing strategies, how those strategies can shift throughout the draft, and what you may be able to expect to pick at the turn in drafts this season. Find the draft board here.
My strategy over the past several seasons is to go running back early and often. I fully recognize that zero running back and any modification of this strategy is legitimate. I personally feel that the wide receiver position is much deeper than the running back position and therefore can be waited on. Meanwhile, while there has been an influx of top-end running backs over the past couple of years, there seems to be somewhat of a cliff when it comes dependable fantasy production. Thus, I chose Joe Mixon.
Initial analysis shows that running backs will go early in 2019 drafts. The first six picks in this mock draft were running backs. A total of seven went before I was able to draft. I am perfectly OK with Joe Mixon as my RB1. Despite missing two games due to a knee injury, Mixon stilled eclipsed 1400 yards from scrimmage and nine total touchdowns. From week 5 (after he returned from injury) through week 17, Mixon accounted for the sixth-most fantasy points by a running back. With Giovani Bernard’s dead cap hit dropping to $750,000 in 2019, he is a candidate to be cut, especially with the Bengals drafting Mark Walton in the 2018 draft. This may equate to an uptick in touches and another top-10 running back season for Mixon in 2019.
1.14 & 2.01 (John)
This was not actually meant to be a contradictory approach. I do not want the other 13 teams to influence my strategy. However, I do recognize an abrupt drop off at the running back position and wanted to get in on the top two tiers before the position dries up. After the top six backs go in the top six picks, the drafters turn their attention to the wide receiver position. The wide receiver run is pushing four of my second-tier RBs – James Conner, Joe Mixon, Nick Chubb, and Dalvin Cook – towards the end of the round. But another odd and intriguing trend is occurring, Odell Beckham Jr., still a top three wide receiver in my rankings, is falling too.
Conner goes at 1.12, and I know Stompy is going running back. This means my running back decision will be slightly easier, with two of my four left and two picks to be made. The question is, how do I pass on Beckham? The combination of Mixon and Chubb is strong enough to justify letting OBJ go. However, Stompy selects Mixon and I curse him under my breath (and probably in the group chat, too). Chubb is a slam dunk choice with one pick, but without a strong feeling of Cook over Beckham, I take the WR to take advantage of the PPR scoring. Beckham and Chubb is a nice start, but this is shaping up to be a modified zero-RB strategy, particularly with Mr. Running Back drafting one spot ahead of me.
I was really hoping Chubb would drop to me here. I have a chub for Chubb. Sorry, I had to. At this point, nine running backs had been taken in the first 15 picks. Again, I have a feeling that running backs will go early in 2019 drafts, which lends credence to my personal belief in a zero wide receiver strategy. Continuing with said strategy, I chose Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson. “Reports of his death have been greatly exaggerated.” But really, many, including me, expected a huge bounce back from DJ after losing 2017 to a wrist injury. In fact, I actually predicted DJ to be THE fantasy RB1 in 2018. This was unfortunately not the case as DJ, really the Cardinals as a whole, disappointed. Of course, this was not all DJ’s fault as newly hired, and now fired, offensive coordinator Mike McCoy did not how to use DJ and his pass-catching ability. Ultimately, DJ finished as the RB9, which is respectable, but over 130 points behind Saquon Barkley, the RB1.
There is hope for DJ to return to form in 2019. The Cardinals fired Steve Wilks and his coaching staff and brought in former Texas Tech head coach and USC offensive coordinator (for a month) Kliff Kingsbury. Kingsbury was known as an offensive guru at Texas Tech. His offenses have finished in the top-10 in yards per game in Division I FBS four out of six seasons with Texas Tech and top-25 in scoring in each of the last four seasons. While he never had a great running back, he has never had a running back quite like DJ. DJ should excel in Klingsbury’s high flying offense, possibly finishing top-five once again.
Guess what I did here? Yep, went with another running back. All to spite my guy SuperFlexDude. This is where running backs start to get a little bit then. The running backs after me were Devonta Freeman (questionable health), Kenyan Drake (questionable situation), LeSean McCoy (old), Mark Ingram (old, no contract), Tevin Coleman (questionable situation), Derrick Henry (who knows?), you get the point. Because I have two potential top-10 running backs, I could afford to take a chance. The chance I took was on Indianapolis Colts running back Marlon Mack.
After a disappointing rookie season in 2017, Mack was much more successful in 2018. He finished with over 1,000 yards from scrimmage and 10 total touchdowns in only 12 games. Mack ended up as the RB21 on the season, but was the RB14 in fantasy points per game. Using FFStatistics’ ‘Points by Week Range’ tab under ‘Weekly Data’, Mack was the RB10 from weeks 6 through 17. In what should have been a bad matchup in the wild card round of the AFC playoffs against the Houston Texans, Mack ran for 148 yards and one touchdown. As you can see, Mack took a huge step forward in 2018. Barring injury, Mack could produce RB1 numbers in 2019, and he is my RB3.
3.14 & 4.01 (John)
Dalvin Cook is long gone. Aaron Jones, my RB11, just behind Cook, went in the middle of the third round. I am going to be high on Derrius Guice in his de facto rookie season. However, he comes off the board at 3.11. That leaves Marlon Mack as the only RB who really excites me, so guess who Stompy Sam, the running back-blackhole takes at 3.13? You guessed it! At this point, I am pretty sure he has intimate relations with all the neighborhood pets when he is not drafting all the best running backs.
Back to the PPR scoring, I take Cooper Kupp’s volume-based floor to balance out Beckham’s explosive upside. The next best wide receiver available is Robert Woods, and I do not want teammate receivers cannibalizing one another on my roster. Derrick Henry is the most interesting running back on the board, but he is a huge drop off from Mack and does not take advantage of PPR enough to compliment Chubb. The top three tight ends are off the board, which means I am waiting on TE, and Patrick Mahomes came off the board earlier in the third round. The best player available who fits my roster is Andrew Luck, so I take a QB far earlier than I generally would. Kupp and Luck at the 3-4 turn are hardly what I expected, but it defies the flow of the draft to this point and gives me a high weekly floor in this format.
FINALLY! Finally a wide receiver. And this pick almost epitomizes my argument for zero wide receivers. The best wide receiver on the Los Angeles Rams, Robert Woods, was available and I had to jump. You heard that right! Woods is THE BEST Rams wide receiver. Woods finished as the WR10 in 2018. In 2017 he was the WR18 in points per game. Over the past few seasons, Woods has essentially matched the top-tier wide receivers like Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham Jr., Julio Jones, etc. in fantasy points per opportunity as well. Woods has been a brand new receiver since moving from Buffalo to Los Angeles. His productivity should continue into 2019. Not only is he returning to a high-flying offense, but fellow wide receiver Cooper Kupp is recovering from an ACL tear in week 10. Kupp could possibly be ready for week 1 of the 2019 season. However, many players who suffer a torn ACL deal with soft tissue injuries the following season. Thus, Woods has a chance to be a WR1 again, but will likely be a WR2 at the very least.
5.13 & 6.02 (Sam)
Of course, I follow up three running backs with three wide receivers. My two choices here further evidence why I like to go running back early. While many teams are looking for their second and third running backs, I get my pick of the wide receivers. The running backs that were going in these two rounds were James White, Jerick McKinnon, Chris Carson, Lamar Miller, Rashaad Penny, and John’s picks Damien Williams and Elijah McGuire. All of these guys have legitimate question marks entering the 2019 season. Meanwhile, I was able to pick Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd and the Arizona Cardinals’ Christian Kirk.
After playing as the Bengals WR3 for the first two seasons of his career, Boyd had his “third-year breakout” in 2018, finishing as the WR15 on the season as the teams WR2. Even in games without star receiver AJ Green, Boyd performed admirably, averaging double-digit fantasy points in the five games he played without Green.
Kirk showed flashes in 2018, despite poor showing rookie quarterback Josh Rosen and the Cardinals offense as a whole. While inconsistent, Kirk still managed to produce double-digit fantasy games in 6-of-12 games he played in. Fellow receiver Larry Fitzgerald may be retiring this offseason. This would allow Kirk to move back to his more natural position in the slot. The Cardinals also hired a head coach in Kliff Kingsbury whose offenses at Texas Tech finished top-10 in yards in 4-of-6 seasons and top-25 in points scored in each of the last four. Working as the likely starter in a better offensive scheme this season, Rosen should take a step forward and thus Kirk.
5.14 & 6.01 (John)
I have got my eye on Tyler Boyd at 5.14 as he keeps slipping closer and closer to me… until Stompy takes him at 5.13. The story of my life so far in this draft. And now I am convinced that Sam bathes in raw sewage. But he does allow me to choose among several running backs with a good shot at fantasy relevancy, despite their obvious risks. Lamar Miller and Josh Adams appear to be in line for feature work in 2019. However, neither one has been granted much job security. Damien Williams, on the other hand, just received a contract extension after successfully wrestling the lead back job from Spencer Ware. The Chiefs likely draft an RB who challenges Williams. But with the information we have right now, Williams is the pick based on his three-down role on one of the best offenses in the league.
There is still risk with Williams, so in order to hedge a little, I follow the pick up with Elijah McGuire. McGuire is currently in line for the starting for the Jets. He will certainly play a role on passing downs at the minimum, raising his floor in PPR. He also looked like the best and most explosive runner on the Jets roster in 2018. If he survives free agency and the draft without any major competition, McGuire will have RB1 upside as the feature back in new head coach Adam Gase’s offense.
7.13/8.02 & 9.13/10.02 (Sam)
Let’s get back to drafting running backs, shall we? The current starting running back for the Philadelphia Eagles somehow slipped to the late seventh round. Josh Adams was given a bulk of the Eagles carries from week 8 through the end of the season. In five of the last six games, he was given double-digit carries, including two weeks of over 20. With Jay Ajayi’s contract up and the Eagles unlikely to bring him back and multiple satellite backs but no real between the tackles grinders, Adams looks to be the defacto “starter”. That is unless the Eagles draft a running back in a relatively light running back class. I am very happy to draft a starting running back in the seventh.
Ronald Jones is one of my favorite sleepers in 2019. RoJo was taken in the second round of the 2018 draft, so he has draft capital on his side. He also has a skill set that other running backs on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster. Jones had a rough rookie season, but I have to believe that he will be given another chance to prove himself. Jones has elite speed and burst which he can use in space. If used correctly, he can be an incredible talent. Enter Bruce Arians. The Bucs hired Arians as their new head coach. Arians knows his way around a running back. RoJo is not David Johnson, I know. The point is, Arians can scheme to RoJo’s strengths. One issue is that RoJo has yet to demonstrate he is a good pass-catcher. But if he works on it in the offseason and proves himself, look out. Definitely worth an eighth-round pick.
Back to wide receivers. This is where I start to reach a little bit and take chances. I feel I have a good base at RB and WR, now I need to go for my guys and high-risk/high-reward guys. Thus I picked Geronimo Allison and Albert Wilson. Allison was the Green Bay Packers WR2 for the first four weeks of the 2018 season. He was the WR27 through those four weeks. Unfortunately, Allison only played in one more game the rest of the season due to an injured groin. Allison is a restricted free agent in the 2019 offseason, so the Packers have a chance to match any deal that Allison receives from any other team. If the Packers do decide to bring Allison back, he may very well come back as the WR2. Randall Cobb’s contract is up and unlikely to come back after several injury-riddled seasons. The Packers also picked three wide receivers in the 2018 draft, all of whom failed to separate themselves. If Allison does come back as the WR2, he could be in for a great season. In 6-of-11 seasons, WR2s under quarterback Aaron Rodgers have finished in the top-24. I will take the chance for those type of numbers, especially in the ninth.
Finally, we have Albert Wilson. Wilson is also one of my favorite sleepers in 2019. He was finally given a chance to shine with the Miami Dolphins in 2018. Wilson was extremely efficient through seven games in 2018 before missing the rest of the season with a hip injury. Through those seven weeks, Wilson was the WR27. With an aging Danny Amendola able $0 dead cap and Davante Parker also likely to be cute with $0 dead cap, Wilson could be in for an increased role in 2019. If he is able to maintain his efficiency over the past two seasons, Wilson is a steal in the 10th.
7.14/8.01 & 9.14/10.01 (John)
Josh Adams was a strong consideration at the 5-6 turn. Seeing him slip to the late seventh has me dreaming of a zero running back approach with three feature backs vying for one starting spot. But as always, along comes Stompy to spoil the party by taking Adams at 7.13. Suddenly, I recognize a resemblance between him and the zombies on “The Walking Dead.” How cost-effective would it be for Stompy to play that role, considering he does not need any makeup? I shift back to a PPR-driven approach and start with Texans slot receiver Keke Coutee. Coutee is likely to be buried in an avalanche of volume as he works the shorter routes with DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller stretching the defense.
Gio Bernard is my 8th round pick as a high floor option due to his pass-catching abilities. This is particularly true if he stays in Cincinnati to compliment Joe Mixon.
We finally turn a corner where Stompy does not snipe me, as he selects Geronimo Allison, who I have no interest in. Instead, I scoop up James Washington in anticipation of Antonio Brown leaving the Steelers and Washington taking over the WR2 role opposite JuJu Smith-Schuster. The ninth round may be a little early for Washington. However, if and when the Brown move occurs, Washington’s ADP will likely jump several rounds.
I finally fill the tight end position to start the 10th round, selecting Chris Herndon out of the sea of “whatever guys” at the most whatever position in fantasy football. But Herndon is the only tight end outside the top-five who I feel particularly comfortable with. I see George Kittle-type upside. I regret the pick a little, however, first because Herndon would have likely fallen to my next pick. Second because Stompy used the very next pick to draft one of my favorite sleeper wide receivers in Albert Wilson. Sad, single tear emoji.
11.13/12.02 & 13.13 (Sam)
Now I have to fill a couple positions that I like to wait on at tight end and quarterback. I like waiting on tight end because past the top three or four, the position is kind of a mess and your best guess who will do well any given week. I like to wait on a quarterback because the difference between first and 24th is smaller than the other positions. Plus the NFL is a pass-happy league and there are probably 20ish startable fantasy quarterbacks.
The tight end I chose was Ian Thomas. Thomas is likely taking over for an aging Greg Olsen who is coming off of his second foot injury in two seasons. There is a good chance that Olsen retires and Thomas becomes the starting tight end. He would find himself in a great position to be successful. The starting tight end for Cam Newton finished either first or second in target share from 2011 to 2016. 2017 is when Olsen went down with an injury. Those same tight ends finished top-seven in every season from 2012-2016. If Thomas does become the starter, he could be a top-10 tight end taken in the 11th.
The quarterback I chose was Lamar Jackson. This is probably the craziest pick I made in this draft. I believe that Jackson is an underrated passer and with some development can be a good passer in the NFL. With his ability to run, arguably the best running quarterback in the NFL, I think Jackson’s ceiling is a better passing Michael Vick. One of the knocks on Jackson is his completion percentage in college. What they do not tell you is that Jackson had 12% of his passes dropped in his senior season. His rookie season, though he did not throw a ton, Jackson was still second only to Baker Mayfield in completion percentage. With new offensive coordinator, Greg Roman gives Jackson a legitimate chance to develop. Quarterbacks under Roman have finished top-15 in fantasy points five out of seven seasons as an OC. Those quarterbacks were Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick, and Tyrod Taylor. Roman knows his way around a running quarterback. Speaking of, Jackson averaged nearly 80 yards per game on the ground after becoming the starter. Given a full 16 game season, that would come out to over 1,200 yards rushing. Given even a little bit of development, cutting down on turnovers, and his rushing upside, Jackson could be a top-12 quarterback in 2019.
Finally, I took one more chance at wide receiver. Josh Reynolds is technically the WR4 for the Los Angeles Rams. However, he has taken on a more prominent role with Cooper Kupp battling knee injuries all season, eventually tearing his ACL and going on IR. In Kupp’s stead, Reynolds has performed admirably, finishing as the WR37 from weeks 11-17. Kupp may well be back for the 2019 season. However, many players recovering from ACL surgery deal with soft tissue injuries their first season back, i.e. Dalvin Cook. Kupp tore his ACL relatively late in the season. If it is the case that Kupp struggles to start the season and is dealing with injuries, Reynolds will get more playing time. We know that quarterback Jared Goff and the Rams offense can support three wide receivers. Kupp, Robert Woods, and Brandin Cooks finished in the top-18 wide receivers in points per game in 2018. Reynolds is a flier in the 13th round that could see significant snaps to start the season and subsequent production.
11.14/12.01 & 13.14 (John)
Time for some dart throws, without any real holes left on this roster and without any must-own sleepers left. Kenneth Dixon is the closest thing for me, as he has clearly been the best playmaker – regardless of position – on the entire Ravens offense over the last two seasons, as long as he is healthy. Lamar Jackson’s emergence brings a new element to the Ravens offense that will only help Dixon by freeing him up in the passing through play-action and run/pass option.
Curtis Samuel is my 11th round pick as a late-season target hog for Cam Newton who may have solidified his role. Especially with Devin Funchess leaving via free agency.
Finally, Jake Kumerow is Mr. Irrelevant for this mock draft, as I take the preseason darling with the final pick of the draft. Beyond Davante Adams, the rest of the receiving corps in Green Bay is a jumbled mess with opportunities available to anyone who sets themselves apart. Kumerow missed most of the 2018 season with injuries but caught Aaron Rodgers’ attention late in the season with a long touchdown in Week 16. I like his chances to earn a greater role in new head coach Matt LaFleur’s offense in 2019.
John’s Roster According to Sam
John took a lot of risks in this draft. Picking on the turn in a 14-team draft will do that.
Running Backs – C
Nick Chubb is one of my favorite running backs in the game. If he did not get injured in 2015, a gruesome injury mind you, I think he would have gone ahead of Saquon Barkley, he was that good. Regardless, he has the speed, burst, agility, vision, and pass-catching ability to be a top-five back in the league. I am perfectly fine with him as an RB1. After that, it gets a little sketchy. Damian Williams has performed great after Kareem Hunt was let go by the Chiefs. Even after signing a two-year extension, we do not know if he is the starting running back there. I like Elijah McGuire as well, but the Jets have a ton of cap space and could go after a big name free agent at running back, like Le’Veon Bell perhaps. It is unknown where Gio Bernard will be in 2019, as he has only a $750,000 dead cap hit if cut. He is a great change of pace and satellite back, I am OK with him as an RB4. Dixon is a flier who may get more touches next season with Collins likely gone and Edwards pedestrian.
Wide Receivers – C
Again, started off great with OBJ, perennial top-five finisher. And again, it gets a little questionable after that. Kupp is phenomenal, when healthy. As I talked about above, Kupp is coming off of a torn ACL. It is currently unknown if he will be back for the regular season and what he will look like when he returns. Coutee could take a step forward next season. He showed flashes and Fuller is also coming off of an ACL tear. If Fuller is healthy, however, Coutee is the WR3 for the Texans. James Washington is interesting. With the drama surrounding AB, Big Ben, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington may step into the WR2 role as soon as next season. This is an offense that sustained two top-eight wide receivers in 2018. Curtis Samuel is underrated and will be a major part of the Panthers offense moving forward. Maybe an even bigger part with Devin Funchess likely gone. Finally, Jake Kumerow is a dart throw. The Packers drafted three wide receivers last season, but Kumerow was a preseason darling before getting injured.
Quarterback – A+
I HATE that he went quarterback so early. YOU SHOULD KNOW BETTER JOHN! But, he grabbed arguably the second-best quarterback in the league in Luck. Luck finished as the fantasy QB4 in 2018, despite shoulder concerns. With a better offensive line, an up and coming running back, two legitimate tight ends, and an elite wide receiver, Luck has a good chance to repeat his 2018 performance. The Colts could also add another good wide receiver in free agency, giving Luck another weapon.
Tight End – B+
I REALLY like Chris Herndon after the rookie season he just had. With the mess that is the tight end position, it is better to wait on tight end and take a risk. Herndon finished as the TE16, a position that is notorious for taking several years to break out. Growing with a young quarterback in Sam Darnold and no real threats to take away targets, Herndon could possibly be a TE1 next season.
Overall – C+
The RBs and WRs scare the crap out of me. Of course, running backs are injured at a relatively high rate, so one of the later round running backs could very well land in a good spot later in the season. The wide receivers are risky as well, but if Kupp is fully healthy, his top-two wide receivers are legitimate and then he only needs one of Coutee or Washington to hit. Of course, he should be fine at quarterback with Luck. I think Herndon can be a TE1 this season with the position’s landscape. I personally do not think this is a playoff team on paper. However, if a couple things go his way, this team could very easily sneak into the playoffs.
Sam’s roster according to John
He sniped me on almost every pick he made ahead of me, so I cannot hate his team too much… right?
Running Backs – A
Clearly the strength of his team, and even though the NFL season is treacherous for RBs, I think he will have at least two top 14 backs at all times. Mixon was a great first pick, Johnson and Mack were steals where he got them, and Adams and Jones are as good as it gets as sleepers.
Wide Receivers – C+
the problem with going heavy on running backs is the wide receiver position suffers. A lot has to go right for this group to even replicate their 2018. Boyd and Woods are better suited for WR2 roles, and Kirk is not ready for fantasy relevance. Wilson could be sneaky though, and his running backs will certainly cover the blemishes.
Quarterback – C+
Stompy is high on Jackson, and I will not argue with anyone taking “their guy.” However, Wentz, Trubisky, and Cousins were among the names that were still available. I would prefer to see one of those guys as QB1 and Jackson as a backup/flier. But in a 13-round draft, only one quarterback is needed, so shoot your shot!
Tight End – B+
Could the tight end be better? Of course. He could have passed on Christian Kirk and had his pick among the second tier of TEs. But I’m not going to fault anyone for passing on such an inconsequential position in favor of RBs and WRs. And it is hard to do much better than Thomas late in the draft, as the presumptive starter in an offense that loves to use the TE.
Overall – B
The running backs will have to carry this team, and I think they can. A little more upside at wide receiver would be nice because in a PPR format the entire lineup is limited when the wide receivers are limited. If he is right about Lamar Jackson and his running backs stay healthy, this is a playoff team that is capable of a late-season run if everything falls into place.
There you have it. John and Sam entered this mock draft with very different strategies. Those strategies, as well as the flow of the draft, resulted in the above rosters. Whose draft was better? As you can see, the guys disagree on how their rosters came out. What do you think?