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While the first and second rounds of any fantasy draft are often quite straightforward, as the biggest studs make their way off the board in a predictable order, as the early-middle rounds approach, things can get quite wild in a hurry.

This trend was as clear as ever in our RotoBaller Way Too Early Mock Draft, as our fantasy football experts were as unpredictable as ever in trying to gain that early-season edge with their draft picks.

Let's break down how rounds three through five played out and see how they did.

 

The Draft Picks

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Round 3

Right out of the gate, both of Drew Brees' top targets from 2016 went off the board back-to-back, Michael Thomas following Brandin Cooks, which shows early trends are favoring Cooks' "boom" ceiling to be more prevalent than his "bust" floor compared to the past season. Rob Gronkowski took a bit of a fall compared to his ADP in recent years, landing in the early third round, as did Todd Gurley after his disaster season. Both are risk-reward picks, but Gronkowski is clearly the much safer bet. Spencer Ware and Stefon Diggs also managed to sneak their way into the third round, as both had big games (especially in PPR), but both suffered big dropoffs in scoring at inopportune times. However, with Jamaal Charles' status up in the air and his lack of effectiveness down the stretch, Ware is much more of a gamble than Diggs.

Round 4

Round four began with a bit of a surprise, as Travis Kelce was the second tight end off the board, three picks ahead of Jordan Reed. CJ Anderson landed in between the two tight end picks after playing well early in 2016 before suffering a season-ending injury and ceding the starting job to a quite ineffective Devontae Booker. Even after a simply disastrous season, Kelvin Benjamin managed to get picked up as early as the mid-fourth, which may seem high, but if the Panthers' offensive line doesn't self-immolate again may prove to be a value pick. Adrian Peterson was one of the most hard-to-read players in this draft, as his situation is extremely fluid, but even with all of his concerns, his talent was too hard to deny as the draft headed into the next round.

Round 5

Round five saw a much more diverse mix of draft picks, as the remaining two "elite" tight ends were taken in Jimmy Graham and Greg Olsen, as well as QBs Tom Brady and Russell Wilson. Dion Lewis was a surprise pick to start the round after the stunning success of LeGarrette Blount last season and with Bill Belichick's penchant for running back rotations. Sterling Shepard, picked after Lewis, presents a similar problem in that his rookie season was very up and down, but could present decent WR3 value behind Beckham depending on how the Giants' running back situation settles itself this offseason, as Eli Manning's level of play begins to decline. The biggest surprise of the round was not Larry Fitzgerald being picked as the 31st wide receiver overall, however, but CJ Prosise being picked before Thomas Rawls. While Rawls was inconsistent and Prosise showed flashes before his injury, Prosise may go down as the most bold pick in the entire mock.

 

Best Steals

Rob Gronkowski (TE, NE) #27 Overall

While Gronkowski's injury concerns are starting to get more and more serious as he continues to miss extended time season after season, when he's on the field, he's the best tight end in football - period. Yes, drafting Gronkowski means you'll have to reach to draft a TE2 early to play in his absences, being able to get an elite first round draft pick in the third is something no one should pass up on. Gronk can and will win you games single-handed and is worth the baggage that comes with him.

Carlos Hyde (RB, SF) #44 Overall

Hyde is coming off of a rock-solid 2016 and with new head coach Kyle Shanahan running the offense, Hyde should see a huge boost in production in 2017. With the 49ers looking to bring in someone new at the quarterback position, they may end up drafting and starting a rookie, at which point Hyde will become the lynch-pin of the offense, helping guide said rookie's development by taking on a true bellcow role. Don't be surprised if Hyde finishes as an RB1 in 2017.

Larry Fitzgerald (WR, ARI) #60 Overall

Larry Fitzgerald, even in his old age, is as solid as solid gets at the wide receiver position as even with QB Carson Palmer having a down year, Fitzgerald still managed to finish as the 16th overall WR in fantasy. With 2017 likely being Fitzgerald's last year in the NFL as well, look for him to leave everything out on the field and maintain his consistent production game-in, game-out.

 

Biggest Reaches

Spencer Ware (RB, KC) #32 Overall

As touched on earlier in the post, Ware started the season off as a hot RB1 play, but cooled off considerably as the season wore on, especially with the emergence of speedster "utility knife" Tyreek Hill. With Jamaal Charles still under contract and coming back from a season lost to injury, Ware could easily lose the starting job. Or he could simply continue to play like he did in the second half of 2016. While Ware has upside, the odds are simply stacked too high against him to be considered anything but a reach this early in the draft.

Tevin Coleman (RB, ATL) #41 Overall

While Coleman is extremely talented and arguably the most valuable handcuff running back in fantasy football, his production with Devonta Freeman healthy is nowhere near high enough to warrant a fourth round selection. Coleman was decidedly more of the "big-play" player between he and Freeman, but betting on getting those plays every week is a gamble you're going to lose more often than not.

CJ Prosise (RB, SEA) #56 Overall

Arguably the biggest reach in the entire draft, Prosise is about as unknown as a running back can be looking ahead to 2017. Not only is the Seahawks offensive line still atrocious, but Thomas Rawls seemed to look like his old self come the playoffs, and with fellow second-year player Alex Collins demanding short-yardage carries, the Seattle backfield is certainly crowded. While Prosise is clearly the best receiving back of the bunch, he's still going to be at minimum a distant third for targets behind Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham. Prosise simply shouldn't have gone this high.

That covers rounds three through five of Rotoballer's Way Too Early Mock Draft, be sure to check back tomorrow for analysis of rounds six through nine!

 

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