2017 RSO Rookie Mock Draft v3.0

Updated: August 23rd 2017

This August update was the hardest mock I have done so far for RSO (including my first 2018 mock which is yet to be published).  It’s easy to fall into the trap of weighting preseason action too heavily so I tried to fight that urge as much as .  I’m sure you will disagree with a number of these picks and I’d like to hear about it @robertfcowper on Twitter.  Please note, I am writing this before the third week of preseason games which is typically when we see the most “realistic” preseason football and you’ll likely be reading it during or after those games.

1.01 – LEONARD FOURNETTE, RB, JAGUARS
1.02 – COREY DAVIS, WR, TITANS
1.03 – CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY, RB, PANTHERS

I’ve had Fournette and Davis as my 1.01 and 1.02, in that order, from the beginning and don’t plan to change them now. Fournette’s value may be negatively impacted by QB Blake Bortles if he continues to struggle like he has so far in the preseason and Davis’s injury hurts his immediate value slightly. Neither falls behind McCaffrey for me, but McCaffrey’s solid preseason work pushes him into a close third in my first tier. If you need a RB over WR, I wouldn’t fault you for getting caught up in the CMC hype at 1.02.

1.04 – DALVIN COOK, RB, VIKINGS
1.05 – JOE MIXON, RB, BENGALS

In addition to moving McCaffrey out of this tier, I decided to flip-flop Cook and Mixon. Mixon may end up with the more productive career over time but on RSO we are drafting for more immediate production as rookie contracts are only three or four years long. Cook has an easier route to RB1 touches with Latavius Murray in front of him rather than Mixon who has Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard to battle.

1.06 – ZAY JONES, WR, BILLS

I was high on Zay previously having him at 1.10 but since July his stock has risen due to personnel moves in Buffalo. Sammy Watkins was traded, Jordan Matthews was acquired and Anquan Boldin signed and promptly retired. Ultimately that’s a net positive for Jones. The Bills won’t be great, but neither was East Carolina.

1.07 – OJ HOWARD, TE, BUCS

Howard stays the course here at 1.07. I haven’t seen or heard anything that encourages me to move him up or down yet.  Don’t forget to grab Cameron Brate too because like most rookie TEs he will need time to develop.

1.08 – KAREEM HUNT, RB, CHIEFS
1.09 – D’ONTA FOREMAN, RB, TEXANS

Foreman has had better success so far during the preseason but I think Hunt has a higher ceiling for the near future. Even if Hunt can’t beat out Spencer Ware for the starting role, he will have value in the passing game. Foreman could see short yardage work so a line of 350 yards but 6-7 TDs wouldn’t be surprising. I originally put players like David Njoku and John Ross ahead these two because of their upside but I’m leaning more towards the sure thing as we get closer to the season.

1.10 – MIKE WILLIAMS, WR, CHARGERS

In true dynasty formats, Williams should not fall this far. However, in our RSO format, there’s a good chance you lose out on 20-30% of Williams’ rookie contract due to his current injuries. His ceiling is higher than that of Jones, Howard, Hunt and Foreman but his floor is lower.

2.01 – ALVIN KAMARA, RB, SAINTS

I’ve hated on Kamara a lot. It’s time to move him up my list though. So far this preseason he has just nine carries but they have been very productive. He has a 50 yard TD carry and 96 total yards; even if you remove the long carry, Kamara still averages 5.75 yards per carry on his other carries. He’ll also be a factor in the passing game, which like with Hunt, will allow him to offer some value as a rookie even with limited carries.

2.02 – DAVID NJOKU, TE, BROWNS

The bloom might be off the rose for Njoku. A report from a few weeks ago showed coach Hue Jackson’s frustration at Njoku’s hands. Plus he suffered an ankle injury in Monday’s game against the Giants (too soon as of this writing to know if it’s serious). He’s still an athletic freak with high upside so he’s worth a speculative pick at the top of the second.

2.03 – JUJU SMITH-SCHUSTER, WR, STEELERS
2.04 – SAMAJE PERINE, RB, REDSKINS

JJSS has just one catch and one carry so far but battled a minor injury to start camp. Perine has 14 carries so far (plus one 29 yard catch). I have not heard any glowing camp reports about either guy so they are basically holding steady despite being on crowded depth charts.

2.05 – MITCHELL TRUBISKY, QB, BEARS
2.06 – PATRICK MAHOMES, QB, CHIEFS
2.07 – DESHAUN WATSON, QB, TEXANS

I’m hedging my bet by putting all three of these quarterbacks together at this point but I truly believe the value in RSO drafts is too good to pass up. To lock up these rising stars for three or four years on a cheap contract is just a huge advantage. Sure, the guy you take has to “hit” but that’s the case with all of these rookies. I am a huge Mahomes fan and am encouraged by his 73% completion percentage and 3 TDs so far but it’s hard to ignore how good Trubisky has looked too and he has a better chance of starting Week 1. Watson will likely win the starting job but I have not been a fan of his so I’d rather take Mahomes and wait.

2.08 – JOHN ROSS, WR, BENGALS
2.09 – EVAN ENGRAM, TE, GIANTS
2.10 – CURTIS SAMUEL, RB, PANTHERS

These three have fallen significantly in my eyes. Ross, no surprise, has been injured. 2.08 might be harsh for Ross but I won’t own any shares of him this season if I have to take him in the first. I’m still worried about Engram’s lack of size and whether he can earn enough snaps at WR behind OBJ, Marshall and Shepard (although recent injuries to those three could linger and open the door). Samuel is supposed to be a “jack of all trades” type but until I see him in action and that the Panther’s offense can support him and CMC, he’ll be a “master of none” for me.

3.01 – TAYWAN TAYLOR, WR, TITANS
3.02 – KENNY GOLLADAY, WR, LIONS
3.03 – COOPER KUPP, WR, RAMS
3.04 – CHRIS GODWIN, WR, BUCS
3.05 – DEDE WESTBROOK, WR, JAGUARS

This group of receivers was tough to sort and I made a number of changes before settling on this. Westbrook and Golladay join the mock based off the success they have had in limited action thus far this preaseason. Westbrook had a single catch for a 42 yard touchdown in his first game and followed that with 6-131. Golladay started strong with a 3-53-2 game against the Colts and fell to just one reception for six yards against the Jets. Westbrook has off-field concerns and is likely a terrible human being but if he can ignite a stagnant Jaguars offense he’ll get some looks. Golladay’s hype train is speeding out of the station with plenty of hangers-on but I’m not ready to push him that high in my rankings after four NFL receptions. The other three receivers were in my original mock: Taylor and Godwin down a few picks and Kupp moved up. I still believe in Taylor who has taken advantage of Corey Davis missing time in camp and in the preseason and has 7 for 97 yards; pushing the QBs higher means Taylor falls to the third through no fault of his own. Kupp has a 8-105-1 line through two games. Sammy Watkins coming to town kills any hope of Kupp being the lead target for Jared Goff but he should beat out Robert Woods, et al by midseason. I’m disappointed so far by Godwin who has caught just three of his six targets. I am still hopeful that all of the attention devoted to Mike Evans, DJax and OJ Howard mean Godwin will have sneaky production.

3.06 – MARLON MACK, RB, COLTS
3.07 – WAYNE GALLMAN, RB, GIANTS

Signing Christine Michael this offseason threw some cold water on my Mack ranking.  Why sign a journeyman like Michael to a crowded backfield after drafting Mack?  Michael ended up getting hurt and is out for the season, but Mack was banged up too and missed the start of the preseason. Frank Gore and Robert Turbin can carry the load to start the season so the Colts might take it slow with Mack. Encouragingly, he did have seven touches for 49 yards in his first game action. I’ve had a man crush on Gallman since I started researching the 2016 Clemson Tigers and I haven’t given it up yet, although I continue to drop Gallman down my mock draft (2.09 to 3.05 to 3.07). I don’t believe in Paul Perkins and I’m not sure the Giants do either since they have more draft capital invested in Gallman than Perkins.

3.08 – JAKE BUTT, TE, BRONCOS
3.09 – DESHONE KIZER, QB, BROWNS

The true value of these two players will come down to when they get on the field. I rank them here with the expectation that they will start a majority of the season for their teams. Butt would have been a first round NFL talent if he wasn’t injured – he’s good value here. This late in your rookie draft, Kizer represents good value too even if he’s just QB28 at the end of the season. I’d rather lock these guys up on cheap long-term contracts now before their value crests in my auction draft (if it’s announced that they will be starting Week 1) or in free agency (if they get on the field a little later).

3.10 – TARIK COHEN, RB, BEARS

Cohen has impressed in this first two weeks of the preseason. His size is worrisome (he’s just 5’6″ and 180lbs) but it hasn’t hindered him yet. Cohen leads rookie RBs in yards (181) and leads the Bears backs in attempts (18). His size will keep him from being a workhorse in the NFL but he will have a role. It’s interesting to note that the Bears invested a higher draft pick in Cohen (4th round) than Jordan Howard (5th), even after Howard’s great rookie season.


Note: When watching film for a player, I typically pick two games at random to watch.  If game film is not available I will search for highlight reels, but keep in mind these are the best plays that player had all season so they really need to jump off the screen.  I do not necessarily want to watch games where they did very well or very poorly as that may not be a great illustration of their true ability.  If possible, when comparing players at the same position I also like to watch film against common opponents.  Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  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, youtube.com (but be wary of highlight only reels)
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, nfldraftscout.com, walterfootball.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, ESPN’s First Draft podcast, draftek.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s

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.

Slicing ’17 Rookie Class into 12 Tiers

Updated: July 23rd 2017

According to a recent poll on our RSO Twitter feed, about 50% of RSO leagues have not yet conducted their rookie drafts.  As you’re continuing your preparation, I’m here to provide my tiered rankings of the top 50 rookies.  Navigating three to four rounds of a rookie draft isn’t easy.  My tiers are designed to help you know when to buy or sell so you can accumulate the best possible rookie class, at great value!

So let’s begin…

Tier 1

1. Corey Davis WR TEN

While Corey Davis may not be quite the same level of prospect as recent 1.01/1.02 picks Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, and Todd Gurley, he’s undoubtedly the best prospect in this class and the only receiver I’m willing to bet will be a true NFL #1.  Putting my money where my mouth is, I already have 3 shares and am aiming for more.

Tier 2

2. Joe Mixon RB CIN
3. Christian McCaffrey RB CAR
4. Leonard Fournette RB JAX

To say you can’t go wrong with picks 2, 3, and 4 would be inaccurate. In a few years, all three will have differing values. But at this point, the margins between each are razor-thin.

Consistent with my general strategy, I’m going to often choose the most talented player regardless of their potential non-talent-related downfalls such as injury history, off-the-field issues, etc. I’ll take Joe Mixon at 2.  He’s the only RB in this class that I believe truly has an elite RB1 ceiling. My rankings 3rd and 4th ranked players differ depending on your scoring system. PPR -> Christian McCaffrey. Standard -> Leonard Fournette.

Tier 3

5. Dalvin Cook RB MIN

While a sub-10th percentile SPARQ score terrifies me, Dalvin Cook‘s college tape tells a different story. I firmly believe that he’s the most talented back on the Minnesota Vikings and it isn’t remotely close. How soon he will earn playing time may be another story. He will need to improve drastically in pass-protection and ball security to earn playing time.

After the 1.05 pick, this draft class falls off a cliff. If you’re slated to pick 6th or later in the first round of a rookie draft this year, I’d advise shopping that pick for help now or 2018/2019 picks.

Tier 4

6. Mike Williams WR LAC

Back injuries are scary. Back injuries are especially scary when learning a NFL playbook for this first time, getting acclimated to a NFL playbook, and completing for playing time among a crowded group of talented receivers. Even if he fully recovers from this injury in time for the season, he’s unlikely to contribute in a meaningful way this season. Still my 1.06, I’d only make that pick if I’ve exhausted every trade possible without coming to an agreement. If Mike Williams struggles for playing time, but appears healthy when on the field, he might be a buy-low target at the trade deadline or during the 2018 off-season

For more info on his injury and the potential need for surgery if the non-surgical route doesn’t work, I’d recommend listening to the AUDIBLE LIVE! Podcast from June 8th as Jene Bramel (@JeneBramel on Twitter) provides great insight.

Tier 5

7. Alvin Kamara RB NO
8. John Ross WR CIN
9. David Njoku TE CLE
10. Evan Engram TE NYG
11. Samaje Perine RB WAS
12. O.J. Howard TE TB
13. Kareem Hunt RB KC

Even if he doesn’t develop as an inside runner, Alvin Kamara will still be a very productive pass-catching back in the NFL. The Saints offense is very RB friendly and neither Adrian Peterson or Mark Ingram are locks for the Saints’ 2018 roster.

Love John Ross‘ talent, but hate the landing spot. Andy Dalton isn’t the ideal QB for him, especially behind a poor offensive line that may force them to focus on getting the ball out of his hands quickly.

My tight end rankings are based on my belief in their long-term upside. Love David Njoku‘s talent and his situation isn’t as bad as many believe, especially with the release of Gary Barnidge. Evan Engram should settle in as a big slot receiver, though classified as a TE, for the Giants once they release he can’t handle the typical blocking duties of an in-line TE.

O.J. Howard likely will end up as the best NFL TE, but I’m worried that his talent as a blocker may limit his fantasy potential.

Samaje Perine doesn’t feel like a 1st rounder to me.  I would do everything possible to trade the 1.11 pick for a random 2018 1st. He was graded by many as a late 2nd or early 3rd round pick dynasty rookie pick, but has catapulted into the 1st round due to his promising landing spot in Washington. Betting on him to the next Jordan Howard is dangerous. Barring that type of breakout, I expect Washington to be in play for signing a free agent or drafting a top RB prospect in 2018.

Rounding out this tier is Kareem Hunt – a running back who dazzled on tape, but disappointed at the NFL combine. Joining a Spencer Ware in the Kansas City backfield, many believe Hunt will overtake Ware for the majority of carries by mid-season. I believe this is far from a lock and would expect Ware to lead KC in carries this year, by a 2:1 ratio.

Tier 6

14. JuJu Smith-Schuster WR PIT
15. Chris Godwin WR TB
16. Carlos Henderson WR DEN
17. James Conner RB PIT
18. Zay Jones WR BUF
19. Curtis Samuel WR CAR

Higher on Carlos Henderson than most, I love his ability after the catch. It’s also worth mentioning that aging receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders aren’t long-term barriers to playing time in Denver.

Tier 7

20. Taywan Taylor WR TEN
21. D’Onte Foreman RB HOU
22. Jeremy McNichols RB TB

Loved Taywan Taylor pre-draft and couldn’t have hoped for a much better landing spot.  Great target in the late 2nd or early 3rd round of your draft.

Tier 8

23. Melvin Mack RB IND
24. Kenny Galladay WR DET
25. ArDarius Stewart WR NYJ
26. Gerald Everett TE LAR
27. Joe Williams RB SF
28. Josh Reynolds WR LAR
29. Chad Williams WR ARI

This group includes several recent ADP risers: Kenny Galladay, ArDarius Stewart, Joe Williams, and Chad Williams. In each of my drafts, I want to land several players from this tier.

Tier 10

30. Jamaal Williams RB GB
31. Aaron Jones RB GB
32. Patrick Mahomes QB KC

In both redraft and dynasty, Ty Montgomery is the back I want in Green Bay though it’s hard to ignore the fact that the Packers drafted 3 running backs. If everything breaks right for either rookie back, Williams and Jones could be featured in one of the NFL’s best offenses. That alone makes them solid values in the 3rd round.

If early rookie drafts are any indication, I’m going to be heavily invested in Patrick Mahomes. While he’ll need to be more consistent to succeed at the next level, I can’t help but drool at his raw ability. His landing spot, under Andy Reid’s tutelage, could not be better. Let’s not forget that Andy Reid used to be criticized during his Eagles days for passing too much.  Mahomes will be put into position to not only succeed, but also develop into a QB1 in fantasy.

Tier 11

33. Cooper Kupp WR LAR
34. Wayne Gallman RB NYG
35. Amara Dorboh WR SEA
36. Deshaun Watson QB HOU
37. Adam Shaheen TE CHI
38. DeShone Kizer QB CLE
39. Mitchell Trubisky QB CHI

Tier 12

40. Ishmael Zamora WR OAK
41. Jonnu Smith TE TEN
42. Josh Malone WR CIN
43. Jehu Chessen WR KC
44. Chad Kelly QB DEN
45. Dede Westbrook WR JAX

Tier 13

46. Shelton Gibson WR PHI
47. Jake Butt TE DEN

48. Elijah McGuire RB NYJ
49. Brian Hill RB ATL
50. Donnel Pumphrey RB PHI


Bio: An avid fan of all things NFL, Dave has been playing fantasy football since 1999.  Though Dave participates in all types of fantasy football including redraft and daily, he prefers dynasty and keeper leagues as talent evaluation and scouting are integral components of each.  Follow him on Twitter @DaveSanders_RSO

Rookie Mock Draft v2.0

Updated: July 23rd 2017

It’s been awhile since the halcyon days before the NFL Draft when opinions and rookie mock drafts were full of optimistic caveats like “he would be a perfect fit with the [INSERT YOUR TEAM NAME].”  Now that we know everybody’s landing place, it should be much easier to mock draft the rookies, right?  At the top, I would say yes but after 1.07 it’s mostly a crap shoot.  As I felt before, although they have shifted slightly, there are definite tier breaks and groupings of like players.  Below I have ran through a three round rookie mock draft for a typical 10-team RSO league.  If your league plays Superflex or 2 QB, you should adjust by moving the QBs up about 10-15 picks each in my opinion.  Keep in mind this is a mock draft and not my straight rankings (which you can view and read about here; my God do I wish I had a do-over on some of those already!) so it’s a combination of my own personal preferences plus those of the dynasty “community” to create what I hope is a good approximation of what your league will look like.  Along the way, I will offer some thoughts about why I grouped the players the way I did and will offer any details about how my personal rankings differ from the mock draft.  Enjoy!

1.01 – Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars

1.02 – Corey Davis, WR, Titans

Many dynasty rankings are starting to converge on the opinion of Davis over Fournette.  I have not changed my opinion yet when it comes to RSO leagues.  I think both will be fantastic NFL players but you need to keep RSO’s format in mind.  Fournette is likely to be fed the rock over and over early in his career until his body breaks down because the Jags lack offensive weapons; meanwhile the state of the Titans offense is less dire and Davis has the luxury of being eased into a starring role alongside QB Marcus Mariota and the RB duo of Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry.  If I had to guess who would be a better pro in Year 5, I would put my money on Davis.  As an RSO owner, that’s not what you’re worrying about though because your rookie contract is either 3 or 4 years long.  I think Fournette will realize more immediate value and that is why I still have him as my first overall rookie pick.

1.03 – Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers

1.04 – Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals

1.05 – Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings

McCaffrey has supplanted Mike Williams in this second tier in my opinion, especially in PPR.  The order of the three RBs is a toss-up but I feel McCaffrey is the safest pick of the three so I put him first.  I have heard of some dynasty players still considering Cook in the top three picks based on his spectacular tape but I am scared off by his questionable combine; Mixon obviously has character concerns.  Admittedly, I decided against Mixon at 1.07 in one of my RSO leagues and instead traded the pick – I wasn’t desperate for a RB and had a second thought about taking on a guaranteed contract for a guy who already comes into the league with a domestic violence issue.  In hindsight it might have been the wrong decision but I felt it was what was best for my team.  I wouldn’t fault anybody for grabbing one of these RBs at 1.03, ultimately it comes down to personal preference.

1.06 – Mike Williams, WR, Chargers

1.07 – OJ Howard, TE, Bucs

Williams’ and Howard’s value changed for me after the NFL Draft because of their landing spots.  Williams has prototypical size to be an NFL WR1 but he joins the Chargers and will have to contend with the chemistry between Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen and fight for targets with the ascendant Tyrell Williams.  If Allen gets injured tomorrow, which we know is possible, the narrative can change quickly which is why I have Williams above Howard.  Before the NFL Draft, I predicted that the Bucs would take the athletic David Njoku to pair with Mike Evans and create red zone nightmares for their opponents.  I had the name of the TE wrong but the logic is still the same: joining the Bucs is far better for Howard’s fantasy potential than if the Browns took him at #12 as was rumored.

1.08 – John Ross, WR, Bengals

1.09 – David Njoku, TE, Browns

1.10 – Zay Jones, WR, Bills

2.01 – JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers

2.02 – Evan Engram, TE, Giants

This tier of pass catchers just edges out the next batch of running backs for me in terms of this RSO mock draft.  The NFL is a passing league and a majority of RSO leagues feature PPR scoring so it stands to reason that you should lean towards these guys over the likes of Kareem Hunt, D’Onta Foreman and Samaje Perine who are featured below.  Ross paces this group, literally and figuratively, because of his speed and big play ability – he can change a game more so than Jones or Smith-Schuster.  Jones thrived in a short passing system in college and should see plenty of short routes with Tyrod Taylor under center in 2017; the fact that the Bills did not extend Sammy Watkins also helps increase Jones’ value.  I’m higher on Jones than most and think he will prove to have a very high ceiling from the start.  Smith-Schuster peaked in 2015 which is slightly concerning and may start start at WR4 on the depth chart behind some combination of Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Sammie Coates and Eli Rogers (not to mention target stealing RB Le’Veon Bell).  Njoku gets the nod over Engram for me because of his bigger size and the likelihood of seeing targets from Day One, albeit from a poorer QB.  Engram is basically a WR and was the smallest of the coveted TEs in this class; I fear that he may loose snaps to Will Tye if he is not able to hold his own as a blocker.

2.03 – Kareem Hunt, RB, Chiefs

2.04 – D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texans

2.05 – Samaje Perine, RB, Redskins

As I mentioned above, none of these guys are prolific pass catchers (Hunt’s 2016 aside, when he had 9 more receptions than the previous three years combined) so they fall a notch in my mock draft.  Hunt has the best chance of being that dual-threat RB which is why he tops this tier for me.  Plus he was a four year starter at Toledo without any major injury concerns so that is also a plus.  The Chiefs offense was in the top half in most offensive categories and with literally zero draft capital invested in Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West, the Chiefs won’t hesitate to make the switch if Ware falters in the least.  Meanwhile, Foreman will have to start behind Lamar Miller who still has three years on his deal (but Houston has a potential out after 2017) so his path to starter’s touches may be longer.  Perine is an interesting player because he was largely overshadowed by his Sooner backfield partner, Joe Mixon, and he now joins a crowded but talent poor Redskins’ backfield.  At various points of the offseason and regular season, it looked like the Redskins feature back would be Matt Jones (who can’t stop fumbling the ball), then 7th round pick Keith Marshall (who got hurt) and then finally Rob Kelley (whose nickname is Fat Rob).  If Perine proves to be the steady and reliable back he was in college he will win the job for the dysfunctional Redskins by mid-season.

2.06 – Curtis Samuel, RB/WR, Panthers

2.07 – Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints

I grouped these two “gadget” players together because I have concerns about the number of touches they will get early in their career.  Samuel proved to be a productive rusher and receiver in college but I’m not convinced he’s good enough at either to stick in the NFL.  The sample size on Kamara as a true running back is too small to put any stock into the possibility of him beating out Adrian Peterson or Mark Ingram (if he doesn’t get traded).  Kamara only had 210 career carries for the Volunteers which is fewer than most of the aforementioned RBs averaged per season.  He is a capable receiver (74 career catches and a 9.2 average) so he will see action on passing downs but his upside is limited by the 6-8 touches I expect each game.

2.08 – Chris Godwin, WR, Bucs

2.09 – Taywan Taylor, WR, Titans

Godwin and Taylor find themselves here at the back of the second round which is a great value in my personal opinion.  I actually have Godwin ranked much higher, for the same reasons as OJ Howard, and am ecstatic when I find him later in drafts.  Taylor is not well known which can work to your advantage.  He put up crazy production the last two years on a mediocre Western Kentucky team (154-3,200-34) and tested reasonably well at the combine (4.50 40 yard dash, best 3-cone drill, sixth best broad jump).  As the second WR taken by the Titans he will fly under the radar but grab him now so you hold him when I predict he breaks out in Year Two.

2.10 – Pat Mahomes, QB, Chiefs

3.01 – Deshaun Watson, QB, Texans

I differ from most RSO owners with my opinions on QBs.  I feel you should target the best rookies in the middle of the second round so you can take your pick rather than being at the end of the inevitable run on them.  My top pick in this class is Mahomes – he has a lot of mechanics work to do but should be the Chiefs starter by 2018.  I am not a fan of Watson but he will have the opportunity to start sooner than most other rookies so he’s worth the gamble.  Just like in the NFL, if you can find a startable QB and lock him up for years on a cheap deal it is well worth the risk.

3.02 – Marlon Mack, RB, Colts

3.03 – Carlos Henderson, WR, Broncos

3.04 – Jeremy McNichols, RB, Bucs

3.05 – Wayne Gallman, RB, Giants

The value in this next tier relies heavily on the health and production of the veterans ahead of the rookies on the depth chart.  Because their talent is a step below the higher ranked rookies, they may not be able to overcome the veterans in training camp and instead will need a “lucky break” to get their chance.  Mack will begin behind the ageless Frank Gore but he’s going to break down, and for good, sooner or later.  Henderson joins a crowded group of WRs on the Broncos and will need an injury to Demaryius Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders to crack the starting lineup; he’ll also need to contend with the young projects of Bennie Fowler and Cody Latimer.  McNichols might have the best shot to ingratiate himself early as Doug Martin is suspended to start the season but reports are that Martin is doing great in OTAs so that puts a dent in McNichols’ prospects after the suspension.  I am a Wayne Gallman apologist and think he has a shot to beat out Paul Perkins.  Perkins did enough in his 112 carries to at least start the season as the RB1 though.  Most people would have Gallman lower but my love for him is too hard to ignore!

3.06 – Jamaal Williams, RB, Packers

3.07 – Cooper Kupp, WR, Rams

3.08 – Jake Butt, TE, Broncos

This tier features three players whose pure talent may not warrant the pick but their situation does – in contrast to the tier above.  The Packers no longer have Eddie Lacy or James Starks so that only leaves converted receiver Ty Montgomery as the incumbent.  Both Williams and Aaron Jones will have ample opportunity to take over the lead role.  The same goes for Kupp who is looking at also-rans Robert Woods and Tavon Austin ahead of him on the depth chart; if Kupp can get on the field early and create a connection with QB Jared Goff he could prove to be a huge value.  TE Jake Butt’s value took a huge hit after he tore his ACL at the end of the season.  Chances are he will be okay to play early in the season and the Broncos will need him as Virgil Green did not show us much last year.

3.09 – Mitchell Trubisky, QB, Bears

3.10 – Deshone Kizer, QB Browns

The same logic applies here as it does for Mahomes and Watson – grab potential starting QBs in your rookie draft to lock them into cheap long term contracts.  Both Trubisky and Kizer join bad teams that could throw them into the fire early.  I doubt they have much value in Year One, like Goff last year, but they are worth the stash given the small cap hit if you’re forced to cut them.

NFL Mock Draft: Picks 1-16

Updated: July 16th 2017

We’re now less than a month away from the NFL Draft and hopefully you’re well into your rookie research.  I think doing a full 32 pick mock draft is a good, albeit time consuming, exercise for dynasty owners because it can help you identify the landing spots for the best offensive talent.  Hopefully, that offensive talent will feature prominently on your 2017 RSO team.  I have included the first sixteen picks below, check back next week for the rest of the first round.

#1 – Browns – Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M

Garrett is the consensus first overall pick and will be an instant impact on the Browns defense.  He was a starter for three years at A&M and produced each season (31 sacks, 47 tackles for loss).  His closest combine comparison over the last few years would be the Vikings Everson Griffen who started out slow his first three seasons but is now coming off back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons.

#2 – 49ers – Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford

Thomas is a versatile DE who showed out in the Sun Bowl against Mitch Trubisky’s Tar Heels (7 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and 1 very important late sack).  He can move inside when needed and will give flexibility to a team that finished 2016 in the bottom half of sacks.

#3 – Bears – Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama

The Bears have other needs but will go Best Player Available (BPA) here and go for offense later.  Like Thomas, Allen is versatile and can get to the quarterback from either his interior DT position or from the end.  He had 22.5 sacks over the last two seasons.

#4 – Jaguars – Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State

The Jags signed Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson but neither is the long term answer, more like a stop gap.  Jacksonville was dead last in 2016 with just 7 INTs, meanwhile, Hooker had 7 himself with the Buckeyes last season.  He is coming off injury so he won’t immediately take over but should be firmly entrenched come midseason.

#5 – Titans – Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State

CB Jason McCourty is a UFA in 2018 so I expect the Titans to draft his replacement at #5.  They can take that luxury pick because they have the #18 where they can go for an offensive weapon for Marcus Mariota.  Lattimore is young, he’s only a redshirt sophomore, and only had 16 career games at Ohio State.  He would benefit from that time behind McCourty if they don’t push him into the lineup beside him right away.

#6 – Jets – Jamal Adams, S, LSU

I don’t believe any of this year’s QBs are worth the #6 pick so the Jets should go BPA and take Adams.  His stock has fallen slightly recently so he might still be available here rather than going in the Top 5 as was previously thought.  Many mocks have Fournette going here but with the serviceable duo of Matt Forte and Bilal Powell I don’t think they would invest this heavily at RB.

#7 – Chargers – Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama

I’m sure the Chargers would prefer safeties Hooker or Adams but they will likely miss out.  Instead, they will have to settle for the next best CB to help their secondary.  This feels like a great spot for a team to trade up and grab the first QB (I think the Panthers, Bengals and Bills are pretty solid with who they want and who will be available so don’t think those three would trade back) or for somebody to grab Fournette before the Panthers do.

#8 – Panthers – Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

Fournette won’t come into the NFL as much of a sure-thing as Zeke Elliott was last year, but he’s pretty close.  Dynasty players have been planning for Fournette for two years now.  The Panthers did just extend Jonathan Stewart’s contract but Ron Rivera has a history of using multiple RBs (i.e. Stewart, DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert) so I don’t think that precludes them from taking Fournette.  I could foresee two seasons of a Fournette-Stewart combo that helps Cam stop taking so many hits on short-yardage plays and extend his career.

#9 – Bengals – Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama

The Bengals lost Karlos Dansby in free agency, signed Kevin Minter to replace him and still have Vincent Rey on the roster.  Foster totaled 115 tackles and 5 sacks in 2016, including 12 tackles and a sack in the championship game against Clemson.  Foster will instantly be the best ILB on the roster so this is a no-brainer.

#10 – Bills – Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

Personally, I have Williams ranked below Corey Davis but I’m not sure if most NFL teams would agree.  Now that he got his new contract, Tyrod Taylor will need some help; the Bills lost Robert Woods this offseason and Sammy Watkins is unreliable due to injury.  I also would not be surprised to see the Bills go for OJ Howard or David Njoku here and be the first team to start the run on TE.  Williams injury history (he missed all of 2015 with a neck injury) does worry me but he did return just fine in 2016.  He has a big frame that helps him catch off target passes which is good when you have an average quarterback.

#11 – Saints – Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan

Charlton is the biggest DE in the Top 100 or so prospects and had more tackles and sacks than Myles Garrett last year.  If Charlton’s 40-yard dash wasn’t so bad (4.92) he could have snuck further up the draft board.  The Saints were 28th in sacks last season and Charlton will help get pressure on the QB.  And, just think of the marketing possibilities with a guy named Taco.

#12 – Browns – Mitch Trubisky, QB, UNC

If the Browns only had one pick in the first round, I don’t think they would use it on Trubisky.  However, to leave the first round with Garrett AND Trubisky is huge – that could set up the franchise for a decade to come if both hit.  Trubisky is a hometown guy (from Mentor, only about 30 min outside of Cleveland) and seems to be the consensus best QB in this class.  I don’t think Trubisky is good enough to start from Day One since he is so inexperienced but maybe since he doesn’t go #1 overall the Browns can be more patient.

#13 – Cardinals – Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

We all know that the QBs will be drafted higher than their value warrants and I think this is the most “reach” of a pick thus far.  I don’t like Watson but he does have a championship pedigree and seems to have good leadership skills.  He won’t need to start at all in 2017, barring an injury to Carson Palmer, and that should help his long term prospects.

#14 – Eagles – Christian McCaffery, RB, Stanford

Matt Waldman has compared Christian McCaffery to Brian Westbrook.  Eagles head coach Doug Pederson played with Westbrook on the Eagles in 1999 and was on the coaching staff at the back end of Westbrook’s career there so you’d assume there is some synergy there.  I still believe McCaffery is a better football player than a RB but given the lackluster options ahead of him on the depth chart (Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood), McCaffery could see significant time right away if taken by Philly.  McCaffery had a staggering 6,000+ all-purpose yards combined in 2015 and 2016.

#15 – Colts – Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin

This OT draft class is historically bad as we have investigated.  In most years, Ramczyk would be the 3rd or 4th best tackle but this year he is probably the best despite being injured.  I would hope that by now the Colts brass are tired of Andrew Luck missing games due to injury or playing hurt and are willing to invest some draft capital to fix that problem.  Unfortunately this is not a more talent rich class at the position but that doesn’t mean they can just ignore the need.

#16 – Ravens – Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan

Steve Smith has retired (presumably), leaving Mike Wallace (who was the team’s leading WR in 2016) and injury prone Breshad Perriman at the top of the depth chart.  Wallace is already 30 and is just not very good so to rely on him in 2017 is likely a mistake.  Enter Corey Davis who is a great route runner with a good combination of size and speed.  Davis is #1 on the all-time NCAA receiving yards list and is #2 in TDs and #4 in receptions.  Davis doubled, or nearly doubled, Mike Williams in most counting stats.  It shouldn’t be surprising that Davis’ numbers are better given that Williams missed 2015 but to see the stats doubled is surprising (Davis played 50 career games, Williams played 38).  He’s good and he’s the guy I’m targeting at the top of my RSO rookie drafts.

To be continued…

**Note: When watching film for a player, I typically pick two games at random to watch.  I do not necessarily want to watch games where they did very well or very poorly as that may not be a great illustration of their true ability.  If possible, when comparing players at the same position I also like to watch film against common opponents.  Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  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, draftek.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.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.

Rookie Film Study: QBs

Updated: July 23rd 2017

My first love was college football.  Like every long-term relationship, college football and I have had our ebbs and flows throughout the years.  Recently we’ve been in a lull due to the fact that I have Rutgers season tickets and I typically spend 6-8 hours at the stadium on a game day.  Factor in an annual away game (Ann Arbor here I come again this year) and I’m missing about 8 weeks of college football action each season.  Thankfully, playing on RSO has helped me refocus and concentrate on the incoming rookies and starting with today’s piece my writing on RSO will be devoted to rookies and the college game.  Check back throughout the offseason for more rookie-centric research, film study and mock drafts.  First up, let’s take a look at the top of the 2017 rookie QB class.

Mitch Trubisky, UNC

By many accounts, Mitch Trubisky will be the first quarterback selected in the 2017 NFL Draft and much ink will be spilled discussing him.

Trubisky is a Junior who is coming out after just one full season as a starter.  The only game in which he had significant reps as a Sophomore came against FCS Delaware when he filled in for injured starter Marquise Williams.  In 2016 he totaled 3,748 passing  yards, 30 TDs and 6 INTs.  He also added decent production on the ground with eight games of either 30+ yards or a rushing TD.  Trubisky’s best outing was against #12 FSU where he completed 31 of 38 passes for 453 yards and 3 TDs; he also added a rushing TD.  His worst outing undoubtedly came against #25 Virginia Tech when he went 13-33 for just 58 yards, zero TDs and 2 INTs.

I watched Trubisky’s film against Duke and Stanford.  One of the first things I noticed about him is that his feet never stop moving in the pocket.  He is always poised to throw but is equally able to evade the rush and escape the pocket.  Twice in the 3rd quarter against Duke, Trubisky fled the rush and turned a sack into positive yardage (one of them into a first down actually).  He did the same a number of times against Stanford and their Top 5 prospect DE Solomon Thomas.  Unfortunately a last second two point conversion attempt to tie the game was one example of the pressure getting home and Trubisky being unable to escape.  Against Stanford he also threw two bad INTs which ended possessions the Tar Heels desperately needed late in the game.

The second half of the game against Stanford perfectly encapsulates Trubisky’s draft prospects.  In the 3rd quarter, on 2nd & 11, Trubisky eludes the pressure and throws a flat-footed pass 40 yards for a first down.  In the 4th quarter, 3rd & Goal, down 8 points with 30 seconds left, Trubisky rolls right toward the boundary but is pressured.  He circles back towards the field, quickly sets his feet and throws a dart from the opposite hash for a touchdown (he threw a similar TD pass from the opposite hash in the 1st quarter of the Duke game).  The next play was the aforementioned two point conversion sack that essentially ended the game.

He certainly has the arm strength and athleticism to make it in the NFL but he’s just a step short.  Will he be the first quarterback drafted?  I think so and somebody will likely take him in the Top 10 but that is too rich for me.

DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame

Kizer will be over-drafted because of his size, plain and simple.  He is 6’4″ and 230lb which should peg him as the biggest quarterback prospect other than Davis Webb who will be drafted significantly later.  He certainly won’t be drafted for the stats he put up at Notre Dame.  He had a horrendous completion percentage of 58.7% in 2016 and did not break 3,000 passing yards in either 2015 or 2016.  He does have some “boom” capability though so be careful which tape you watch – he went off for 5 TDs and 0 INTs twice, once in 2016 against Texas and once in 2015 against Pitt.  What makes his size so tantalizing is the speed that goes with it – he’s tough to bring down in traffic and if he gets into the open field, he’s gone.

When I watched Kizer’s film, I was struck by how uncomfortable he looked under pressure which I thought might be a strength given his athleticism and speed.  Kizer often seems to forget about the rush once it gets behind him and gets sacked from behind rather than stepping up and out of the pocket.  Against Stanford, I counted four sacks like this; two of which came on the last drive when the Irish were down 7 points.  I was not impressed with his accuracy or arm strength when rolling out.  I also question his attention to detail: between the two games I watched, Duke being the other, Kizer dropped two snaps and botched a handoff.  Lastly, his awareness of game situation and field position worries me.  Of all of the film I have watched so far of the rookie QBs, Kizer has by far the worst throw.  Let me set the stage… it’s 35-35 against Duke with just 5 minutes left, Notre Dame has the ball in the shadow of their own goal posts and it’s 3rd & 20.  Kizer drops back to pass, into his own endzone, shuffles left and throws a duck without setting his feet.  The pass is easily intercepted at the Notre Dame 45 yard line.  The announcer basically says, “no big deal, they would have punted anyway” but that is asinine.  If Kizer was able to gain even 5 yards to give his punter some room, they could have ensured that Duke at least got the ball back in their own half instead of plus territory.  Duke took over, killed 4+ minutes and kicked a 19 yard field goal that ended up being the game winner.

Some quarterback desperate team will inevitably take Kizer in the Top 15 due to his physical tools but I wouldn’t want my team making that mistake – he will need time to develop and he won’t get that if he’s taken in the top half of the first round.

DeShaun Watson, Clemson

DeShaun Watson will be the name that most casual fans will be familiar with and the one that I am most worried about RSO owners reaching for.  Watson has played in two National Championship games, one of which he won, has finished in the Top 3 of Heisman voting twice and has more than 10,000 career passing yards.  Watson certainly has a championship pedigree but can he turn that into success in the NFL?  Not unless he can stop throwing interceptions.

Without even watching any film of Watson, you can quickly determine his biggest negative… he throws way too many INTs.  In 2016 he threw 17 and in 2015 he threw 13.  Does this sound familiar?  Okay you’re right I ragged on Watson for his interceptions in the lead up to January’s championship game, so I’ll move on.

When I started watching film of Watson, I had a preconceived notion that his interception problems were caused by his limited reading of the field.  After watching 2016 outings against Auburn and Ohio State, I still believe that.  Against Auburn, the first game of the season, you will find very few throws when Watson looks away from his primary receiver.  Against Ohio State, in the semi-finals, he was improved but still not what you would hope for from a franchise quarterback.  Going back to the Auburn game, I also noticed three times when Watson’s throw was deflected at the line of scrimmage.  Depending where you look he is either listed at 6’3″ or 6’2″ – I would not be surprised if his height becomes a problem come combine.

Watson is obviously supremely talented and I think that his field vision issues could be helped by the right coach (whether that means giving him half-field reads or actually helping him improve) so I’d be willing to give him a shot in the late 1st round.

Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech

If there is one quarterback in the first round that I would be targeting it would be Mahomes.  Many draft resources have him listed as the 4th prospect behind Trubisky, Kizer and Watson but I believe he should be right up there with Trubisky.  Given the difference in draft pick needed to nab the two, Mahomes would be my pick.

It’s easy not to give any credence to the numbers that Mahomes (and past air raid quarterbacks) put up but let’s just take a quick look because they are insane.  He threw for over 11,000 total passing yards in his career and 93 TDs.  In 2016 he had six games of 400+ yards, three games of 500+ and one of 700+.  Add in 22 career rushing TDs and you have an all-around prolific quarterback.  All of Mahomes’ stats (yards, touchdowns, yards per attempt, interceptions, etc) improved year over year from 2014 to 2016.

Watching film of Mahomes is a bit misleading due to how many attempts he has each game, but it was sill instructive – anybody could find pros and cons when you have 50+ attempts.  You will notice immediately that his footwork needs improvement – he throws off one foot often – but he has the arm strength to overcome.  To my eye, he looked most comfortable when rolling out of the pocket and only had half of the field to read.  When on the run, he throws accurately.  Like Kizer, he seems to struggle with stepping up and out of the pocket, oftentimes he just stepped right into a sack.  Two things that I loved when watching Mahomes play against Arizona State… First, he drew two offsides and turned one of those into a touchdown on a free play.  That is something you see in the NFL (Aaron Rodgers anybody?  Just kidding) and not so often in college.  Second, he executed this one play perfectly a few times, once going for a touchdown, where he has a long fake at the mesh point and then fires a quick bullet to a slanting TE.  He was knocked out of the game against Kansas but it was not a serious injury.

Mahomes, like the other three profiled here, is not perfect but I think his trajectory is pointing in the right direction and he is worth a pick by a fringe playoff team around 20th overall.

 

Note: When watching film for a player, I typically pick two games at random to watch.  I do not necessarily want to watch games where they did very well or very poorly as that may not be a great illustration of their true ability.  If possible, when comparing players at the same position I also like to watch film against common opponents.  Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  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

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.