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RotoBaller Standard Mock Draft Analysis - Round One


Hallelujah, we’ve officially entered fantasy draft season! Even though it’s a good idea to focus on the here and now when it comes to players and their average draft position (ADP), I personally love looking back at earlier mock draft results to see how values have shifted.

The preseason is rife with player progress, setbacks, and injuries that can completely alter the fantasy football landscape, making for some extremely interesting retrospective analysis. In this article, I’ll be taking a look back at round one of the Rotoballer 12-team standard mock draft that began in late July and ran through mid-August, all the while pointing out some of the key takeaways of note for fantasy owners.

For a look at our most recent PPR Mock Draft results, check out the first round recap here.

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Brief Summary

Let’s start by looking at a summary of the picks made in round one. The following photo shows the round number (left), overall pick number (middle), and player name (right) of all the selections made.

Perhaps to no one’s surprise, the early August consensus top three running backs and top three wide receivers all went off the board by pick number seven. After that, it becomes a mix of second tier talent that includes target hound A.J. Green and bell-cow runner Melvin Gordon. Although Michael Thomas managed to squirm his way into the first round at 11th overall, Rob Gronkowski is by far the largest reach with his early August ADP sitting in the late second round. Aside from Elliott and Gronkowski, the first round of this mock draft could very well be what many fantasy owners will face in their August drafts.

 

Key Takeaways

The first round of fantasy drafts is typically uneventful compared to the mid-to-late rounds. However, there are a few important selections that are worth taking a closer look at.

The Big-Six Fly Off the Board Quickly, But One Name Will Fall…

While the top three wide receivers in Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr., and Julio Jones will all likely be drafted within the first seven picks of most standard fantasy drafts, one of the top running backs has seen his stock plummet. Sophomore Dallas Cowboy running back Ezekiel Elliott was handed a 6-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy on August 11, meaning his first game of the season will be against the Washington Redskins in Week 8 due to the Cowboy’s Week 6 bye. Elliott’s legal team has appealed the decision, but it’s more likely that he will be stuck with the suspension. League Commissioner Roger Goodell has shown little flexibility in the past on domestic violence rulings.

Once a top fantasy choice, Elliott shouldn’t be taken before the mid-to-late third round of most league formats. He has a great chance of finishing outside of the top-10 at the running back position and the risk of putting your team in a hole early on outweighs the potential benefit of having him in your starting lineup for the back half of the season. However, if you do plan on taking him with one of your draft picks, there are two keys to success. First, draft at least one running back with a high floor early on prior to Elliott so as to have consistency at the position. Second, ensure that you create a safety net with the running backs you select later in the draft by playing the favorable matchup games through the first six weeks of the season. Choosing Elliott means sacrificing your ability to stash potential breakout runners, instead forcing you to look for guys later in the draft like Jonathon Stewart or Thomas Rawls that can produce at a discounted cost while you fill other positions early on.

Michael Thomas (WR, NO) Enters the First Round Conversation

New Orleans Saints’ wide-out Michael Thomas has managed to find a way into the first round of this particular mock draft, going ahead of established Green Bay Packers’ stud Jordy Nelson as the WR6. Why does that sound so familiar? Oh yeah, because I happened to argue for just such a draft day decision in another article for Rotoballer comparing the two!

I’ll give the short version of what I said. Since 2006, the New Orleans Saints’ top wide receiver has had an incredibly consistent share of the teams’ targets, never falling below 16% at its lowest and reaching 23% at its peak. Thomas will undoubtedly be that player in 2017 after catching 76% of his targets and showing how productive he can be with an increased role in the offense down the stretch, catching 6 touchdowns over the final eight games last season. Furthermore, he has massive touchdown upside as a 6`3, physical target that bullies corners at the line of scrimmage. Nelson, on the other hand, is hitting an age that is notoriously recognized as the point of decline for wide receivers, especially in fantasy football. Over the last 10 years, only two of 71 wide receivers from age 32 onward have finished in the top five of fantasy scoring, meaning he lacks the upside of a conventional WR1. There were also signs of decline last season that are obvious red flags, with Nelson’s 13.4 yards per reception taking a knock down to 12.8 from week 9 onward and a career low 8.3 yards per target to finish the 2016 season.

If you asked me to pick between the two in a vacuum, Thomas gets the edge as a can’t miss player at a position where consistency is paramount. Of course, I didn’t write specifically about picking him in the first round. Although Thomas is one of the safest picks in the first two rounds, he may not be the league-winner that many would want him to be. Devonta Freeman could definitely earn some consideration ahead of him, but a big part of what made Thomas such a great draft selection was the fact that you could pick up a solid running back with the a late pick in the first round and swing around to select him in the second. That being said, if you want to take a reach on Michael Thomas early, I won’t be the voice in your head trying to stop you!

Is Rob Gronkowski (TE, NE) Worth a First Round Pick?

No, and the justification is two words: positional scarcity.

Most 12-team, standard scoring fantasy football leagues will have starting lineups that consist of one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, one tight end, and a flex spot. As should be readily obvious, choosing to fill a spot in your lineup that requires a single player as compared to multiple spots puts you at an inherent disadvantage simply by virtue of having fewer solid contributors. The deficiency you set yourself up for with the two most important positions, running back and wide receiver, will cause issues barring any major steals or breakthrough sleepers.

Rob Gronkowski might be worth a late second round selection, but my personal strategy is to draft a late round tight end with massive upside and take my chances with the waiver wire if it doesn’t hit. The consequences of missing won’t cost you your fantasy season and you can often find options that will be serviceable replacements. This doesn’t mean choosing Houstan Texans’ tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz as your number one option, nor does it mean betting on the waiver wire to guarantee prosperity. Just be wary that a first, even second round draft pick on a tight end can set you back a lap behind your fellow owners.

 

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