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RotoBaller's Early 2018 Redraft Football Mock - Round 1


The great thing about playing your favorite game with true fantasy degenerates is that there is never an "off" time for the game. It feels like yesterday we started drafting, both in eulogy to the 2017 fantasy football season, and a eulogy to when the RotoBaller writing team started our in-house PPR draft, which has officially been going on for three weeks as of this writing.

Our team was eager to do any sort of mock drafting, so you'll also be able to read a dynasty version of this exercise on the site as well. But our rowdy gang of 12 is in it for the sweet, short-term thrill of re-draft victory. We're using full PPR scoring and a standard 2-2-1 WR/RB/TE breakdown. Free agency news continues to hit as these picks go on, so already we can speculate as to how ADP might be shifting.

Of course, as people who just love the game and want to beat everyone else, we were less interested in the technicalities and exceptions and more interested in righting the wrongs of our previous season. So, let's recap round one.

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Way Too Early Mock Results: Round 1

Round 1
Selection Writer Player
1.01 Dennis Clausen Todd Gurley
1.02 Cliff Clinton Ezekiel Elliott
1.03 Justin Carter DeAndre Hopkins
1.04 Chris Mangano Antonio Brown
1.05 Steve Rebeiro David Johnson
1.06 Taylor Maxston Le'Veon Bell
1.07 Chris Zolli Odell Beckham Jr.
1.08 Frankie Soler Rob Gronkowski
1.09 Steve Halupka Melvin Gordon
1.10 Brittany Smith Michael Thomas
1.11 Pierre Camus LeSean McCoy
1.12 Jason Katz Leonard Fournette

 

1.01: Team Dennis Clausen selects Todd Gurley (RB, LAR)

It's a name you're gonna have to get used to seeing at the top of the leader board, now that Todd Gurley has grabbed 13 rushing touchdowns, torched everyone who didn't own him in the playoffs, and emerged not only in the MVP conversation, but nearly 40 points better than any player on the end-of-year fantasy leader boards despite not playing in Week 17. Gurley looks like the offensive bomb that the Rams drafted when their strategy was focused on a smothering offense, and Gurley looks good in Sean McVay's offense in a way that's impossible to criticize. Though I can't begrudge anyone picking Gurley here, he'll need to stay a pivotal piece of the receiving game to be the outright number one guy in fantasy.

1.02: Team Cliff Clinton selects Ezekiel Elliott (RB, DAL)

I was tempted to get David Johnson here, but I was salivating at the change to see Elliott put together a full slate of performances that was comparable to the handful of games he played in 2017. Just two yards shy of a clean hundred yards per game, Elliott's numbers should make him a clear top-five guys with little downside. It may not be the most popular pick this early, but if he can stay on the field all season and come to camp as in-shape as he did after his training trip to Mexico, he'll be a great fantasy building block.

1.03: Team Justin Carter selects DeAndre Hopkins (WR, HOU)

I moved to Houston slightly before Brock Osweiler did, and I remember fondly the year of a grocery store chain doing "Osweiler/Watt are best buddies" commercials, before including Vince Wilfork for some reason and eventually retiring the idea altogether. Well, I'm a strong advocate of a Watson/Hopkins commercial where they are doing sweet throw and catches throughout the store, in anticipation of the most exciting offense the city has seen, at least in football terms. Hopkins was undervalued in 2017 as analysts were unsure of who would be slinging the rock. Now that Watson is the guy, his health will be intertwined with Hopkins's performance to be worthy of top receiver overall, with the consolation prize still being a top-five player at the position. It's a decent trade-off, but not without some risk, especially this high.

1.04: Team Chris Mangano selects Antonio Brown (WR, PIT)

Now Antonio Brown isn't a risky receiver in any sense of the word, more often than not a safe harbor for fantasy ships as well as the Pittsburgh Steelers offense. Of course, it also may be the first season we're talking about a Brown without a Bell, and though that shouldn't affect the receiver's reliability when it comes to making space and putting together big plays out of thing air, it will mean that teams can simply leave multiple defenders on Brown one hundred percent of the time and take their chances with everyone else. It means you still kind of have to take Brown where you can get him, but you may see Brown quietly slide to sixth or seventh in more leagues than he'll climb to pole position.

1.05: Team Steve Rebeiro selects David Johnson (RB, ARI)

Johnson gets a recent injury discount after enough owners got burned by a wrist injury that unexpectedly kept him out all season, but Johnson will have had a full year to nurse before hitting the field again, meaning anything less than peak-David Johnson would be a shock to football and fantasy analysts alike. Rebeiro noted that Johnson was his pick because he didn't think Hopkins would go third, but if Johnson sees the receiving workload he did in his best season, the fantasy gods may have granted him a bit of a gift.

1.06: Team Taylor Maxston selects Le'Veon Bell (RB, PIT)

As of this writing, there is no bigger question mark in fantasy football. The ability and the steadfast performances that are his hallmarks aren't in question, but the "if" and "where" he's going to play certainly are. If the Steelers decide to franchise Bell again, the back has made it clear that he will stick to the sidelines until he gets a fair contract, which may mean a holdout that spans just the preseason at best, or the franchise tag at worst. This route also could cause some bad blood with the team as a whole, meaning that Bell would become as frustrating to his own team as he would be for fantasy owners; simply put, no one is happy if Bell isn't playing.

If Bell gets his wish and gets a fair contract, it probably won't be with Pittsburgh, as it's believed Bell already refused the team's top offer last year while noting that his leaving the team was not as much about the money. Where Bell would go is a total mystery, as no one knows the exact factor he's looking for next, so no one knows what to expect apart from enough cap space.

Credit to Taylor for taking Bell here, but I wouldn't, at least not until have some idea of those other factors. There's just enough question marks not around Bell's ability or drive, but the decisions that have yet to be made that impact his fantasy value at a much greater level. I both respect and fear for the fantasy owners who roll the dice on a very uncertain gambit here.

1.07: Team Chris Zolli selects Odell Beckham Jr. (WR, NYG)

I think you're gonna see Beckham on a lot of teams this year with the "Dirty Dancing" Super Bowl commercial shot, because we're all putting a lot of stock into Eli and Odell capturing the magic and making it work in 2018, the latter most especially. Odell Beckham is entering a very big do-or-die contract year, and I'm sure everyone who is financially linked to the young receiver is telling him to straighten up and fly right this year. Contract years are generally a very fun time to take a chance on talented fantasy players, so you could easily be getting peak Odell Beckham in 2018.

You may see Michael Thomas going before Beckham is some cases because of this surrounding conversation, but don't get it twisted; Beckham has still been a lock for double-digit touchdowns and a minimum of 1,300 yards for the last three years. Zolli took the best player off the board here, and arguably Beckham may represent the Gurley of 2017 when we find ourselves asking why we didn't take him higher.

1.08: Team Frankie Soler selects Rob Gronkowski (TE, NE)

The positives on Gronk: The Brady-Belichick-McDaniels core around him is unchanged, and Gronk is still a big red zone target who was tied for most at his position.

The negatives are much lengthier. Gronkowski is going to be the only guy on this first round list who openly considered retirement recently, and it's potentially due to the over-the-middle concussions he's been susceptible to throughout his career, including the playoffs. The team has adjusted how they use him throughout the season, converting him to more use on the outside or in blocking, and only sending him out over the middle to get slaughtered in worst case situations or playoff games. Gronk also isn't the top guy at his position anymore, seeding that seat to Travis Kelce (Gronk must be referred to as "Old Kelce" now) with Zach Ertz nipping at his heels. And what's more, Gronk is reportedly rumored to a link to the WWE, the only franchise in the world that could make Patriots fans go from "He's not gonna retire," to "Oh, sh*t, he might!"

This is the classic overpaying-for-Gronk that fantasy owners have become numb to, but it's getting worse and worse. Considering Kelce was left on our board until round three (spoiler alert), this seems like a big reach for a guy who is sending out signals that he's tired of getting hit and concussions. If his health doesn't ultimately remove him from the game, it will at least limit a certain facet of his fantasy production.

1.09:  Team Steve Halupka selects Melvin Gordon (RB, LAC)

Melvin Gordon isn't a pick that'll get your fantasy draft room to gasp or faint, or react much at all. Gordon isn't any sort of underrated player as he's being taken in the top-10, but the workload and contribution to the passing game do make him a bit of a commodity that is underappreciated in fantasy circles. Despite Austin Ekeler spending a whopping two games making us wonder if Gordon was part of a committee, Gordon finished the season as the clear clubhouse leader and isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

I like Gordon here, as his contemporaries either have a shorter track record, playing time concerns, or a higher boom-bust status. Gordon is a safe RB1 for leagues, and I'd draft him comfortably with that floor in mind.

1.10: Team Brittany Smith selects Michael Thomas (WR, NO)

With all the conversation around the Kamara and Ingram connection in New Orleans, we didn't pay nearly enough attention to the fact that Michael Thomas was having the best first-two-seasons of fantasy football production in recent memory in terms of yardage, but also that he wasn't eating nearly enough with the talented backs taking all that sweet red zone work. It was my only gripe with a strong 2017 season from the receiver, and I think that in conjunction with that number returning to Thomas's previous mark of nine, you'll see him re-enter the number one receiver conversation. Thomas is Pro Football Focus's second-best receiver overall, so a few more touchdowns sprinkled on top of his consistent yards-per-touch statistic each game should mean very worth considering at the end of round one.

1.11: Team Pierre "Grand PFunk Railroad" Camus selects LeSean McCoy (RB, BUF)

I wrote enough times about the importance of having a RB who is seeing 20 rushing opportunities a game, so getting the guy with the second-most rushing opportunities last year at the end of the first round is a strategy that makes sense. It just comes down to, today, figuring out how the Bills are going to reload for 2018. The best-case scenario with McCoy is he spends at least one more year as the primary weapon for the team, a rushing and catching weapon that had no equal in Buffalo. The worst case scenario is that the Bills don't figure out their offensive situation, and McCoy is left to deal with stacked boxes that will slow him down to a halt in spite of his explosive ability. This is normally the reason we don't do the real drafts until fall.

1.12: Team Jason Katz selects Leonard Fournette (RB, JAX)

Katz had some interesting choices at RB here, all better than Pierre's pick before. Fournette, Kamara, and Hunt all remained, and while I don't know if Fournette was the "right" pick, I can see the logic. Fournette will almost certainly improve on his rookie campaign, and the team will be more comfortable with a twenty plus carry workload game in and game out, if only to keep the ball out of the air and converted in a way that Fournette was able to do even against the best teams. The problem, again, becomes box stacking, in hopes that he doesn't look like the same ineffective weapon he did against the Chargers and Cardinals.

I think Fournette will take a nice step forward, and have less of those fully stopped performances, but the back also plays a very physical game, so I do hold a small concern for injury.

Biggest Reach: Rob Gronkowski

Not to belabor the point, but tight end isn't winning you leagues that way it may have in more recent years. Taking Gronkowski here, and missing out on some of the younger quality RBs that run out about halfway through round three, means you're left playing catch-up on two fronts in exchange for a guy who will almost certainly not break over 250 overall points in 2018.

Biggest Steal:  Michael Thomas

Thomas, as noted, was in striking distance from Antonio Brown in terms of actual football performance in 2017, so there's no reason that won't translate to fantasy with the paired anticipation of a touchdown adjustment. Quietly, Thomas has supplanted guys like Julio Jones, Mike Evans, and AJ Green in the best receiver conversation, and that's going to be worth something in both the short term and long term. While Thomas wasn't my favorite pick in the first round, which largely went as expected apart from a few reaches, the 10th pick was right around the best place for him, and Brittany's position at the turn means she can make a splash at RB that sets her up really well for 2018.

 

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