News & Analysis

Fantasy football mock draft: Strategy lessons from a 12-teamer

Dec 2, 2018; Oakland, CA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs running back Spencer Ware (32) is congratulated by running back Damien Williams (26) after rushing for a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders in the third quarter at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

You can learn something in every last fantasy football mock draft you participate in. Maybe sometimes it’s a small lesson, maybe sometimes it’s a big one. Maybe it ultimately matters or maybe it doesn’t. But you can always learn something.

The PFF Fantasy team held a mock draft recently with some big-name helpers joining in. Check out the recap below, with some of the top takeaways and lessons. (12-team, PPR, 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 flex, 1 K, 1 DST)

The participants

Pick Drafter Home site
1 Daniel Kelley PFF Fantasy
2 Rich Hribar Sharp Football Analysis
3 Jeff Ratcliffe PFF Fantasy
4 Nathan Jahnke PFF
5 Graham Barfield NFL.com
6 Chris Towers CBS Sports
7 Nando Di Fino The Athletic
8 Jamey Eisenberg CBS Sports
9 Mike Tagliere Fantasy Pros
10 Scott Barrett PFF Fantasy
11 Liz Loza Yahoo Fantasy
12 Mike Wright Fantasy Footballers

The draft

(click to enlarge)

The first two rounds

Owner Pick Player Pos Team Pick Player Pos Team
Kelley 1.01 Saquon Barkley RB NYG 2.12 Nick Chubb RB CLV
Hribar 1.02 Ezekiel Elliott RB DAL 2.11 Keenan Allen WR LAC
Ratcliffe 1.03 Christian McCaffrey RB CAR 2.10 Mike Evans WR TB
Jahnke 1.04 Alvin Kamara RB NO 2.09 Todd Gurley RB LAR
Barfield 1.05 David Johnson RB ARZ 2.08 Joe Mixon RB CIN
Towers 1.06 DeAndre Hopkins WR HOU 2.07 George Kittle TE SF
Di Fino 1.07 Antonio Brown WR OAK 2.06 Dalvin Cook RB MIN
Eisenberg 1.08 Davante Adams WR GB 2.05 JuJu Smith-Schuster WR PIT
Tagliere 1.09 Melvin Gordon RB LAC 2.04 Odell Beckham Jr. WR CLV
Barrett 1.10 Travis Kelce TE KC 2.03 Le'Veon Bell RB NYJ
Loza 1.11 Michael Thomas WR NO 2.02 Damien Williams RB KC
Wright 1.12 Julio Jones WR ATL 2.01 James Conner RB PIT

It’s a small lesson here, but maybe the main takeaway from the first round is that we shouldn’t expect a lot of surprises near the top of drafts this year. The biggest surprises I can drum up out of these results are:

If anything there shocks you, your threshold for shock is pretty low. You know your league better than anyone else, of course, but you probably shouldn’t expect much wild and crazy at the top of drafts this year.

The top undrafted players

Quarterbacks

Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings; Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers; Tom Brady, New England Patriots; Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers; Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears

This being an “industry” draft, quarterbacks went later and in lower number than will likely happen in home drafts; only 16 quarterbacks went in this 12-team draft. But the lesson is clear: Quarterback is deep.

Running back

Frank Gore, Buffalo Bills; Jalen Richard, Oakland Raiders; Jamaal Williams, Green Bay Packers; Ryquell Armstead, Jacksonville Jaguars; Elijah McGuire, New York Jets

On the other side of the depth coin, if you’re looking for waiver fodder at running back, it will be from someone unexpected. There’s not much here.

Wide receiver

Mohamed Sanu, Atlanta Falcons; A.J. Brown, Tennessee Titans, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Philadelphia Eagles; Randall Cobb, Dallas Cowboys

There is available production at the wide receiver position, but for 2019, it’s all low-upside. Anyone with a real ceiling got snapped up.

Tight end

Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens; Jordan Reed, Washington; Chris Herndon, New York Jets; Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings; Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles

Tight end is similar to quarterback in number of players drafted (17 compared to 16) and the fact that the names left available are similar to the last ones drafted (Andrews, Reed, and company aren’t that different from Austin Hooper, Jimmy Graham, or Darren Waller). It’s different in that the available quarterbacks could all make an argument for being upper-tier quarterbacks. At tight end, there’s a big battle to finish at (say) eighth or ninth.

Roster construction

RB-light

Chris Towers roster
Position Player Team Pick
QB Patrick Mahomes KC 4.07
RB Kerryon Johnson DET 3.06
RB Rashaad Penny SEA 7.06
RB Jerick McKinnon SF 11.06
RB Mike Davis CHI 12.07
RB Kareem Hunt CLV 13.06
WR DeAndre Hopkins HOU 1.06
WR D.J. Moore CAR 5.06
WR Tyler Boyd CIN 6.07
WR Courtland Sutton DEN 8.07
WR James Washington PIT 9.06
WR Josh Gordon NE 13.06
WR Parris Campbell IND 14.07
TE George Kittle SF 2.07
K Michael Badgley LAC 16.07
DST Dallas Cowboys 15.06

Whatever you do, don’t call this “zero-RB” on Twitter; I did that and got all sorts of “If Kerryon Johnson was drafted, it’s not zero-RB” from people who are pedants. I would argue that taking only one running back before the eighth round and even him in the third is as close to zero-RB as it makes sense to go these days. Either way, CBS’ Chris Towers looked elsewhere for most of the top of his roster, getting arguably the No. 1 quarterback, No. 1 wide receiver, and No. 2 tight end, and plenty of receiver depth before getting running backs in the eighth, 11th, 12th, and 13th rounds. This team will need at least one of these secondary backs to pop in a big way, but if Rashaad Penny can overtake Chris Carson, or if Jerick McKinnon can overtake Tevin Coleman, or if Kareem Hunt gets a big role after suspension, the rest of his team is rock-solid.

Wait on QB

Daniel Kelley roster Jeff Ratcliffe roster
Position Player Team Pick Position Player Team Pick
QB Dak Prescott DAL 12.12 QB Jameis Winston TB 12.10
QB Lamar Jackson BAL 13.01 QB Philip Rivers LAC 13.03
RB Saquon Barkley NYG 1.01 RB Christian McCaffrey CAR 1.03
RB Nick Chubb CLV 2.12 RB Leonard Fournette JAX 3.03
RB Tarik Cohen CHI 7.01 RB David Montgomery CHI 4.10
RB Dion Lewis TEN 10.12 RB Austin Ekeler LAC 8.10
RB D'Onta Foreman HOU 11.01 WR Mike Evans TB 2.10
WR Corey Davis TEN 4.12 WR Cooper Kupp LAR 5.03
WR Alshon Jeffery PHI 5.01 WR Robby Anderson NYJ 6.10
WR Marvin Jones DET 6.12 WR Keke Coutee HOU 9.03
WR N'Keal Harry NE 8.12 WR D.K. Metcalf SEA 10.10
WR Larry Fitzgerald ARZ 9.01 WR John Brown BUF 11.03
WR Ted Ginn Jr. NO 16.12 TE Eric Ebron IND 7.03
TE Zach Ertz PHI 3.01 TE Austin Hooper ATL 14.10
K Ka'imi Fairbairn NO 15.01 K Brett Maher DAL 16.10
DST Baltimore Ravens 14.12 DST Houston Texans 15.03

As mentioned earlier, 16 quarterbacks went in this draft. The last four, comprehensively, make up these two rosters. Both Jeff and I adopted his “upside and safe” quarterback strategy, with Dak Prescott and Philip Rivers presenting relatively safe options and Lamar Jackson and Jameis Winston both offering big upside. We each only took one non-RB/WR earlier (my Zach Ertz in the fourth round; his Eric Ebron in the eighth) and loaded up on the other positions otherwise. The depth at quarterback proves you can wait a long time and still get strong passers.

Wait on TE

Nando Di Fino roster
Position Player Team Pick
QB Russell Wilson SEA 10.06
RB Dalvin Cook MIN 2.06
RB Lamar Miller HOU 5.07
RB Derrius Guice WAS 6.06
RB Royce Freeman DEN 8.06
RB Adrian Peterson WAS 9.07
RB Devin Singletary BUF 12.06
RB C.J. Anderson DET 16.06
WR Antonio Brown OAK 1.07
WR A.J. Green CIN 3.07
WR Tyreek Hill KC 4.06
WR Will Fuller HOU 7.07
WR Antonio Callaway CLV 11.07
TE Jimmy Graham GB 14.06
K Wil Lutz HOU 15.07
DST Chicago Bears 13.07

If you ignore the K/DST-heavy 15th and 16th rounds, The Athletic’s Nando Di Fino took a tight end as late as he reasonably could have, grabbing Graham as his lone man at the position in the 14th (yes, he drafted a running back in the 16th, but the general point remains the same). There are classes at tight end — the three at the top (Kelce, George Kittle, Ertz) and the next three (O.J. Howard, Hunter Henry, Evan Engram). If you miss those runs, the approach here of just punting on the position and taking someone late means you’ll still have a shot at the aforementioned available names like Andrews and Reed if Graham struggles again. You could argue that’s a better move than just taking a “meh” option four or five rounds earlier.

Light on RB

Scott Barrett roster
Position Player Team Pick
QB Baker Mayfield CLV 8.03
QB Carson Wentz PHI 12.03
RB Le'Veon Bell NYJ 2.03
RB Josh Jacobs OAK 4.03
RB Miles Sanders PHI 7.10
WR Stefon Diggs MIN 3.10
WR Allen Robinson CHI 5.10
WR Sammy Watkins KC 6.03
WR Marquise Brown BAL 9.10
WR Anthony Miller CHI 10.03
WR Tyrell Williams LAC 11.10
WR Marqise Lee JAX 13.10
TE Travis Kelce KC 1.10
TE Jack Doyle IND 16.03
K Justin Tucker BAL 14.03
DST Minnesota Vikings 15.10

If Le'Veon Bell, Josh Jacobs, and Miles Sanders are all bell cows or similar in 2019, PFF's own Scott Barrett is set. But those three — a veteran off of a missed season and two rookies, including one in Sanders who is in an absolutely jam-packed backfield in Philadelphia — are the only three backs on his roster. Scott is extremely deep everywhere else, but that's a risky backfield.

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