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The First 2016 Fantasy Football Mock Draft

By Matt Schauf 2:40pm EST 1/8/16

         

The 2015 fantasy football season just ended ... which obviously means that it's time for a 2016 mock draft.

Well, it wasn't my idea. But I was happy to join in when the Sirius XM folks asked.

I'm not sure how much value this exercise will actually have for 2016 fantasy football, but it's interesting. It's noteworthy to see how excited some analysts are for certain young players and how early the rookies will start to hit the board -- even before they have teams.

As always when you draft with fantasy analysts, all the QBs went later than they would in average drafts. I might approach that position a bit earlier than I did Wednesday night if things went similarly in the next draft, but I have no problem with the pair I drafted in the double-digit rounds. I expect that it'll be another easy year for waiting on QB value, though I also wonder if disappointing performances from some marquis passers will turn some bigger names into values in the single-digit rounds.

And while a January mock draft will obviously suffer for not knowing where free agents might go, which old guys might retire and how the draft and coaching changes might reshape certain offenses, the most glaring issue at this point is the backfield situation. Pretty much all of them, to be exact.

Four RBs went in Round 1 of Wednesday's mock, and the guy who picked Falcons RB Devonta Freeman at 1.09 later bemoaned his selection.

We'll have months to analyze and project who will and should go where, so for now I'll just lay out the picks (mine in bold) with some round-by-round notes. You can check the league site for the full list of participants. Scoring was PPR, with all other categories pretty standard. Lineup: QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, TE, R/W/T, K, D.


Round 1

1.01 Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers
1.02 Julio Jones, WR, Falcons
1.03 Todd Gurley, RB, Rams
1.04 Odell Beckham, WR, Giants
1.05 Le'Veon Bell, RB, Steelers
1.06 DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans
1.07 Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots
1.08 Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars
1.09 Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons
1.10 A.J. Green, WR, Bengals
1.11 Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys
1.12 Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings

I might have taken Hopkins if he'd lasted. I also considered Bryant, though I'll need to know more about his foot and situation (Tony Romo good to go?) before taking him there. The only TE that looks close to Gronk right now is Jordan Reed, who missed 7 and 5 games before sitting out just 2 this year.


Round 2

2.01 Sammy Watkins, WR, Bills
2.02 David Johnson, RB, Cardinals
2.03 Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos
2.04 Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots
2.05 Amari Cooper, WR, Raiders
2.06 Alshon Jeffery, WR, ???
2.07 Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs
2.08 Brandon Marshall, WR, Jets
2.09 Brandin Cooks, WR, Saints
2.10 Matt Forte, RB, ???
2.11 Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers
2.12 Jordan Matthews, WR, Eagles

I'm not sure Jeffery was 100% at any point this season, but he sure performed like a WR1 when he was healthy enough. We'll see where he winds up, though teams don't tend to let #1 WRs walk in free agency. I was quite surprised to see Forte and Matthews go this early. I don't think either belongs in this range right now and will be mildly surprised if either settles into the 2nd round in ADP this summer.


Round 3

3.01 Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Rookie
3.02 Jarvis Landry, WR, Dolphins
3.03 Jeremy Maclin, WR, Chiefs
3.04 Mark Ingram, RB, Saints
3.05 Doug Martin, RB, ???
3.06 Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers
3.07 Lamar Miller, RB, ???
3.08 Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers
3.09 Martavis Bryant, WR, Steelers
3.10 T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts
3.11 Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Panthers
3.12 LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills

I was hoping Ingram and/or Martin would make it to my slot, and I also considered McCoy. I'm betting right now that Miller will find a more stable workload in 2016 than in 2015, but whether that happens will affect whether I'll continue to draft him in this range. I also considered Benjamin but kinda wanted to see if he'd make it back to me in Round 4.


Round 4

4.01 Latavius Murray, RB, Raiders
4.02 Jordan Reed, TE, Washington
4.03 Jeremy Langford, RB, Bears
4.04 Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos
4.05 Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers
4.06 Randall Cobb, WR, Packers
4.07 Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinas
4.08 DeVante Parker, WR, Dolphins
4.09 Eric Decker, WR, Jets
4.10 DeMarco Murray, RB, Eagles
4.11 Jeremy Hill, RB, Bengals
4.12 Michael Crabtree, WR, Raiders

It's too close to the end of 2015 for me to feel good about Cobb in Round 4, but I expect a healthy Jordy Nelson to make a big difference for the Green Bay offense -- and Cobb's room to work -- in 2016. I'd also bet on Lacy either having a good offseason -- i.e. choosing the salad more often -- or getting a challenge for his job, which should further help an offense that we'd been able to count on for a while.

Also, I'd rather draft Langford than Forte right now. We'll see how the offseason plays out for them.


Round 5

5.01 Golden Tate, WR, Lions
5.02 Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals
5.03 John Brown, WR, Cardinals
5.04 T.J. Yeldon, RB, Jaguars
5.05 Michael Floyd, WR, Cardinals
5.06 Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks
5.07 C.J. Anderson, RB, Broncos
5.08 Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions
5.09 Cameron Artis-Payne, RB, Panthers
5.10 Carlos Hyde, RB, 49ers
5.11 Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks
5.12 Allen Hurns, WR, Jaguars

The offseason will drastically impact the way I sort RBs in this range. I leaned Anderson over Hyde at this point because I'll need to learn more about what to expect from Hyde's foot injury going forward. With Anderson, I don't think the 2015 injuries point to long-term effects. And he looked good in the few flashes when he got healthy. Anderson's a restricted free agent, but I'd bet on Denver retaining him.

I'll go ahead and boldly predict that you won't see Lynch in Round 5 in actual 2016 drafts. He'll either retire or remain the Seattle starter. And as the latter, he'd be at least a 3rd-rounder.


Round 6

6.01 Josh Gordon, WR, Browns
6.02 Arian Foster, RB, Texans
6.03 Greg Olsen, TE, Panthers
6.04 Danny Woodhead, RB, Chargers
6.05 Derrick Henry, RB, Rookie
6.06 Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers
6.07 Donte Moncrief, WR, Colts
6.08 Matt Jones, RB, Washington
6.09 Cam Newton, QB, Panthers
6.10 Andrew Luck, QB, Colts
6.11 Chris Ivory, RB, ???
6.12 Jay Ajayi, RB, Dolphins

Gordon didn't do anything to impress me this season, and he might prove to be a bust. But the Chargers traded up to draft him in the middle of Round 1 last year. They kept going back to him after each fumble-related benching, and we've all seen the big-play ability. He wouldn't be the 1st rookie to struggle his 1st time out and then make a leap in Year 2. I would imagine that he'll go higher than this come summer unless his offseason produces disappointing reports.


Round 7

7.01 Tom Brady, QB, Patriots
7.02 Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
7.03 Charcandrick West, RB, Chiefs
7.04 Delanie Walker, TE, Titans
7.05 DeSean Jackson, WR, Washington
7.06 Darren McFadden, RB, Cowboys
7.07 Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Titans
7.08 Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs
7.09 Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers
7.10 Dion Lewis, RB, Patriots
7.11 Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks
7.12 Willie Snead, WR, Saints

If I had this pick to make again, I'd probably lean Wilson. But I think this is a fine time to take a shot on DGB. He had a decent rookie season when you consider that he missed football entirely in 2014, played with a rookie QB who dealt with 2 knee injuries and saw his team switch coaches mid-year. Smola's gonna wet himself when he sees that he might be able to get Roethlisberger 6th off the board among QBs.


Round 8

8.01 Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers
8.02 Ameer Abdullah, RB, Lions
8.03 Kevin White, WR, Bears
8.04 Julius Thomas, TE, Jaguars
8.05 Duke Johnson, RB, Browns
8.06 Tyler Lockett, WR, Seahawks
8.07 Drew Brees, QB, Saints
8.08 Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals
8.09 Stefon Diggs, WR, Vikings
8.10 Steve Smith, WR, Ravens
8.11 Devin Funchess, WR, Panthers
8.12 Buck Allen, RB, Ravens

I might well have Abdullah ahead of Melvin Gordon on my board (again) by the summer. The only reason I'm leaning Gordon now is that I know his team hopes to feature him. I've liked Lockett since NFL Draft time last year, and I think we saw the Seattle passing game developing over the 2nd half of 2015. I would guess that we'll see slightly more passing going forward, with Wilson's efficiency helping his wideouts produce even on lower volume than some of their fantasy peers might see. That said, it's tough to say where Lockett will ultimately land when I actually start working on 2016 projections later in the winter.


Round 9

9.01 Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles
9.02 Karlos Williams, RB, Bills
9.03 Gary Barnidge, TE, Browns
9.04 Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals
9.05 Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Buccaneers
9.06 Thomas Rawls, RB, Seahawks
9.07 Nelson Agholor, WR, Eagles
9.08 David Cobb, RB, Titans
9.09 Kendall Wright, WR, Titans
9.10 Tavon Austin, WR, Rams
9.11 Bilal Powell, RB, Jets
9.12 Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars

Agholor didn't show much this year, but it was a tough situation. QB Sam Bradford struggled through at least the 1st half of the season. The offense on whole never stopped struggling for any significant stretch. And he lost 3 games to an ankle sprain in the middle of the year. We'll see what the new coaching staff and offense look like, but Agholor entered the league as a dead-ringer for Jeremy Maclin. Version 1.0 beat Agholor's rookie total by 33 receptions (56 to 23), but that also remains his lowest single-season total to date. Rookie-year struggles don't doom a wideout.

Rawls' draft position doesn't really matter. He'll leap up the board if Lynch retires or gets pushed out. He'll probably belong a round earlier even if he enters 2016 as Lynch's handcuff.


Round 10

10.01 Shane Vereen, RB, Giants
10.02 La'Quon Treadwell, WR, Rookie
10.03 Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington
10.04 Tevin Coleman, RB, Falcons
10.05 Derek Carr, QB, Raiders
10.06 Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans
10.07 Martellus Bennett, TE, Bears
10.08 Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals
10.09 Victor Cruz, WR, Giants
10.10 Breshad Perriman, WR, Ravens
10.11 Charles Sims, RB, Buccaneers
10.12 Rueben Randle, WR, ???

What kind of upside does Mariota carry? Check out what Bortles did this season. And Mariota looks like a better QB, with what might turn into a comparable corps of pass-catchers as soon as this year. He delivered 5 top-10 fantasy weeks among 12 starts in 2015, and Mariota has yet to fully explore the rushing upside that produced surprisingly little outside of the long TD run against Jacksonville in week 13. Tennessee's coaching choices and Mariota's offseason will be interesting.


Round 11

11.01 Kamar Aiken, WR, Ravens
11.02 Jaelen Strong, WR, Texans
11.03 Jamison Crowder, WR, Washington
11.04 Justin Forsett, RB, Ravens
11.05 Ronnie Hillman, RB, Broncos
11.06 Vincent Jackson, WR, Buccaneers
11.07 Ryan Mathews, RB, Eagles
11.08 Markus Wheaton, WR, Steelers
11.09 ROOKIE WR
11.10 Ted Ginn, WR, Panthers
11.11 Frank Gore, RB, Colts
11.12 Torrey Smith, WR, 49ers

The Eagles disappointed fantastically with their run game in 2015, but they still might have the right pieces already on the roster. The new coaching staff will determine how the 2016 depth chart lines up -- and whether the team needs anyone new -- but Mathews was the best back I saw on the team last season.

I believe the rookie WR drafted in this round was Michael Thomas from Ohio State, but I don't remember for sure and MFL obviously doesn't have not-yet-drafted players loaded at this point.

As for WRs already in the league, I don't expect to be interested in Ginn in 2016 drafting until at least the final few rounds. He capitalized on opportunity in 2015 while playing with a terrifically performing QB. Ginn didn't suddenly turn into a worthwhile NFL receiver.


Round 12

12.01 Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys
12.02 Travis Benjamin, WR, Browns
12.03 Isaiah Crowell, RB, Browns
12.04 DeAngelo Williams, RB, Steelers
12.05 Jameis Winston, QB, Buccaneers
12.06 Tyrod Taylor, QB, Bills
12.07 ROOKIE WR
12.08 Theo Riddick, RB, Lions
12.09 Stevie Johnson, WR, Chargers
12.10 Davante Adams, WR, Packers
12.11 Phillip Dorsett, WR, Colts
12.12 James White, RB, Patriots

I think the rookie wideout in this round was Pittsburgh's Tyler Boyd. I'll gladly take Taylor as a QB2 -- and half of a platoon with Mariota -- for 2016. He proved terrific on deep balls and as good as we expected as a runner. Bills GM Doug Whaley has said they "believe in him" going forward.


Round 13

13.01 Brandon Coleman, WR, Saints
13.02 Rashad Jennings, RB, Giants
13.03 ROOKIE RB
13.04 Eric Ebron, TE, Lions
13.05 Crockett Gillmore, TE, Ravens
13.06 Spencer Ware, RB, Chiefs
13.07 Corey Coleman, WR, Rookie
13.08 James Starks, RB, Packers
13.09 Pierre Garcon, WR, Washington
13.10 Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions
13.11 Eli Manning, QB, Giants
13.12 Marvin Jones, WR, Bengals

I don't remember which rookie RB went in this round, but I do remember Coleman. Because I drafted him. I'd be lying if I said I knew a whole lot about him right now, but I know he's a small-ish, high-volume receiver with good deep speed. Sounds like a guy worth betting on at this stage -- in the right situation.

At this point, I'd probably bet on Maxx Williams passing Gillmore among Ravens TEs in fantasy drafting as we get into the summer. But we'll see.


Round 14

14.01 Kenny Stills, WR, Dolphins
14.02 Panthers D/ST
14.03 Richard Rodgers, TE, Packers
14.04 ROOKIE RB
14.05 Justin Hardy, WR, Falcons
14.06 Jerick McKinnon, RB, Vikings
14.07 Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings
14.08 Brandon LaFell, WR, Patriots
14.09 Phillip Rivers, QB, Chargers
14.10 Cardinals D/ST
14.11 Stephen Gostkowski, K, Patriots
14.12 Andre Ellington, RB, Cardinals

Even if Adrian Peterson sticks around, McKinnon will make plenty of sense as a handcuff type in this range. I was thinking about Hardy in this area as well. He'll be a player to watch this offseason in an Atlanta offense that could really use options beyond Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman. Once again, I don't remember which rookie runner went here. But it doesn't really matter. Situations will primarily dictate the order in which those guys go come summer drafting.


Round 15

15.01 Jets D/ST
15.02 Broncos D/ST
15.03 Justin Tucker, K, Ravens
15.04 Graham Gano, K, Panthers
15.05 Steven Hauschka, K, Seahawks
15.06 Rams D/ST
15.07 Seahawks D/ST
15.08 Chiefs D/ST
15.09 49ers D/ST
15.10 Texans D/ST
15.11 Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers
15.12 Bills D/ST


Round 16

16.01 Brandon McManus, K, Broncos
16.02 Cairo Santos, K, Chiefs
16.03 Josh Brown, K, Giants
16.04 Adam Vinatieri, K, Colts
16.05 Blair Walsh, K, Vikings
16.06 Chandler Catanzaro, K, Cardinals
16.07 Dan Bailey, K, Cowboys
16.08 Raiders D/ST
16.09 Bengals D/ST
16.10 Clive Walford, TE, Raiders
16.11 Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons
16.12 Mason Crosby, K, Packers

I don't think there's much value to including kickers and defenses in mock drafts at this point, but that was part of the exercise here. So there you have it. I'd be curious to read your thoughts in the comments section below ...

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