Mock Draft Trends

Jan 11, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide offensive lineman Cam Robinson (74) and linebacker Reuben Foster (10) celebrate after defeating the Clemson Tigers in the 2016 CFP National Championship at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Does anybody else have Mock Draft Fever yet?  I sure do.  I’ve been checking out various mocks around the interwebs and have noticed two trends that I think are important for RSO owners to keep in mind as we head into the combine season.  Will things change as we progress through the combine and pro-days, certainly, but starting your research now is still a good idea.  Here are two story lines that RSO owners need to pay attention to as they start their mock draft and rookie research.

Offensive Line is Almost Historically Weak

Since 1999, an offensive lineman was not taken in the Top 10 just twice: 2015 and 2005.  Ultimately, like the quarterback position, I think team need will supersede talent and somebody will reach for whomever they feel is the top graded tackle.  You may be asking yourself, who cares, I’m not drafting Cam Robinson regardless of where he goes in the NFL draft.  Of course, but I think this is important for two reasons…
  1. The later the first offensive lineman is taken, the higher the potential that star offensive skill position rookies get drafted higher (i.e. by worse teams)
  2. The earlier the first offensive lineman is taken, the more likely a “run” on them starts because teams are worried they will get stuck with a third-rate tackle
Let’s use a real example to illustrate both ideas and how they could play out.  If the Jaguars, who arguably need both OL and RB help, take RB Leonard Fournette at #4, the next likely landing spot for the first OL would be the Chargers, Panthers or Bengals at #7-9.  If they all skip on OL too, it’s possible we may not see an OL taken until #14 and the Colts who desperately need to protect Andrew Luck.  If the Jaguars go OL first, maybe Fournette falls to #8 and the Panthers, which would look A LOT better for his rookie RSO prospects than the Jaguars.  If the Jaguars do go OL and it causes any of the next ten teams to panic and grab their own over a skill position player, it could mean somebody like WR Corey Davis falling to a better offense like the Titans or Bucs to pair with their young franchise QBs.

2017 Could be the Year of the 1st Round RB

Depending on which mock draft you look at, we will likely have multiple RBs taken in the 1st Round, probably three.  Fournette will undoubtedly go first followed by Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffery.  The draft fortunes of RBs has fluctuated over the last twenty years but over the last five years specifically, the demand for rookie RBs has trended downward.  We could argue if that has more to do with the talent of the players or the importance of the position to NFL teams but that is a conversation for another day.

The last two years gave us Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon, but 2014 and 2013 gave us zero 1st Round backs.  2012 was the last time that three RBs were drafted in the 1st Round but two of those were at #31 and #32.  You’d have to go back to 2010 to see a stronger crop with #9, #12 and #30.  Looking back at the 1st Round names before the 2013-14 drought is scary: Trent Richardson, Doug Martin, David Wilson, Mark Ingram, CJ Spiller, Ryan Mathews and Jahvid Best.  The best of this group, Martin and Ingram, are viable RB1s in RSO formats today but they have had bad seasons along the way and aren’t without question (you could throw Gurley and Gordon in that mix too – of course Elliot is a step above them all).  Spiller, Richardson and Mathews have had varying levels of success but none proved to be dynasty assets.  Wilson and Best were both out of the league prematurely due to injury.  Should you be scared of drafting a 1st Round RB for your RSO dynasty?  Probably if his name is not Leonard Fournette.

I think 2017 should probably be a two RB year in the NFL Draft’s 1st Round: Fournette and Cook.  After seeing the success of Elliot in 2016 though, I would not be surprised if some team who thinks their OL is on the rise tries to recreate that magic, albeit with a lesser back.  I predict somebody will reach for McCaffery in the 24-30 range and would not be surprised to see either Joe Mixon (despite his off field issues) or Wayne Gallman (after all of Clemson’s success the last two years) get a nod at #32 if the Patriots trade out which they often do.  Your RSO draft of course will look different with only skill position players but at this point in the process, I would be hesitant to take Cook higher than 1.05 and for McCaffery/Mixon I would wait even a few picks later (of course that could all change based on who drafts these guys).

*Note: When researching college players I use a number of resources, I would recommend bookmarking the below sites…

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, cfbstats.com
  • Film: draftbreakdown.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, nfldraftscout.com, walterfootball.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, ESPN’s First Draft podcast
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com/

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  Robert works as a recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

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