Fantasy  

 

Montee Ball leaps into top ten in latest mock draft

The NFL free-agent period has been rampant, as several big fantasy names will be wearing new uniforms in the 2014 campaign. This mock draft (Version 3.0) includes those moves and is the last one we'll see before the NFL Draft kicks off on May 8. There have been several changes compared to Version 2.0, which I filed back in February. However, you will notice one thing remains similar, and that's the focus on younger players with what will be my favorite word this offseason ... "upside."

One other thing that hasn't changed is the lack of quarterbacks being drafted in the first five rounds. To be honest, I had to force myself to put Peyton Manning at the top of Round 3 despite the fact that he's coming off one of the best fantasy football seasons of all time. (Let the angry tweets begin!)

This mock draft is based on NFL.com's standard 10-team leagues with a basic (non-PPR) scoring system that rewards four points for touchdown passes and six points for all other touchdowns scored. Each numbered position represents an individual fantasy team, so no more than one quarterback, three running backs, three wide receivers or one tight end will be selected per roster.

Round 1

1. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings: Peterson experienced a large decline in production in 2013, but that was to be expected after the monstrous totals he recorded in the previous campaign. Still, he did finish eighth in fantasy points among running backs despite also missing time due to injuries. Peterson is no mere mortal, and the addition of offensive coordinator Norv Turner is huge.

2. Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs: Charles is coming off the best season of his career, recording 70 receptions, 1,980 scrimmage yards, 19 total touchdowns and 308 fantasy points. Whether he can duplicate his top status among running backs remains to be seen, but at 27 he's in the prime of his career. Look for Charles to remain the focus of Andy Reid's offensive attack.

3. LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles: The NFL's leading rusher, McCoy piled up 1,607 yards with 11 total touchdowns and 278.60 fantasy points in Chip Kelly's offense. The Pitt product has now finished second in fantasy points among backs in two of the last three seasons, and at 25 he's in the prime of his career. His value won't decline with Darren Sproles in the mix.

4. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks: It seems like Lynch has been in the league forever, but he's just 27 and should still have one or two strong seasons left in the Great Northwest. He's ranked among the five-best running backs based on fantasy points in three straight seasons, and there's no reason to believe he won't continue to find success. He's a top-five selection.

5. Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears: Forte thrived in the offense of coach Marc Trestman, recording career-bests in rushing yards (1,339), rushing scores (9), receptions (74) and receiving yards (594). The 28-year-old runner also averaged a solid 4.6 yards per carry, proving he can be explosive and versatile. Forte will be a top-five pick and could go top three in PPR formats.

6. Eddie Lacy, RB. Green Bay Packers: If you watched "NFL Fantasy LIVE" last season, you know I love Lacy. He started the 2013 season with a combined 15 carries in his first three games, due in large part to a concussion that cost him some time. From Weeks 5-17, he averaged 20.7 carries per game. Lacy also scored more rushing touchdowns (seven) than any player since Week 10.

7. DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys: Murray shook his prone-to-injuries label to start 14 games in 2013. Outside of Dez Bryant, he was the best statistical performer on the field for coach Jason Garrett. Murray even caught 53 passes, which showed how versatile he can be on the field. At 25 and with little wear and tear on his body, he's on the radar as a top-10 choice.

8. Le'Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Even with the addition of LeGarrette Blount, I still love Bell's upside. In 13 games as a rookie, he averaged better than 13 fantasy points and was projected to record 211.57 fantasy points over a full season of work. That would have been more points than Lacy, Murray and Peterson. Bell has fantasy superstar written all over him.

9. Montee Ball, RB, Denver Broncos: Some might think this is too high to draft the unproven Ball, but the departure of Knowshon Moreno (Dolphins) makes him a prime breakout candidate. Running backs have almost always had success playing alongside Manning, so there's oodles of upside with this Wisconsin product. He has the tools to post similar numbers to Moreno next season.

10. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions: I am not a fan of taking wide receivers in Round 1, but grabbing Megatron makes sense. He is a safer bet than any of the running backs still on the board, and I won't lose much by waiting an extra pick or two to nab a runner. Johnson has finished no worse than third in fantasy points at wideout since 2011, so he's guaranteed to produce.

Round 2

11. Zac Stacy, RB, St. Louis Rams: Stacy carried the football once for the Rams over the first four weeks of last season. During the final 12 games, all of which he was the starter, he averaged 13-plus fantasy points. Coach Jeff Fisher will lean on Stacy as his workhorse in his second pro season, so he'll be well worth a late second-rounder as a No. 2 runner at this stage of the draft.

12. Josh Gordon, WR, Cleveland Browns: Despite the fact that he missed the first two games of the season, Gordon still led all wideouts in receiving yards and fantasy points in 2013. He also scored at least one touchdown in five straight games. Hopefully, the franchise will make a major improvement at the quarterback spot to make Gordon's value even better heading into 2014.

13. Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys: Bryant is a fantasy monster, scoring a combined 25 touchdowns over the last two seasons. He's also a stud when it counts, scoring in each of his last five games of 2013. In 2012, Bryant recorded at least one end-zone visit in seven of his last eight games. He should also thrive in the offensive of new OC Scott Linehan, so expect Bryant to post big totals.

14. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos: Thomas has emerged into a massive superstar, as his fantasy-point totals have risen in each of the last three seasons. He's finished with 90-plus catches, 1,400-plus yards and a combined 24 touchdowns over the last two seasons as the main threat in the pass attack for Manning, and at age 26 he's barely into the prime of his NFL career.

15. A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals: One of the most talented young wide receivers in the NFL, Green has finished fourth in fantasy points at his position in each of the last two seasons. He has also seen his reception and yardage totals increase during that time. Like Thomas, Green is entering the prime of his career and should remain a fantasy star for many years to come.

16. Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints: How valuable is Graham? His 217.5 fantasy points would have ranked him as a super stud regardless of position ... he would have finished as the sixth-best running back, the top-ranked wide receiver and the top-ranked defensive unit. A potential contract holdout is cause for concern, but Graham won't make it out of Round 2 regardless.

17. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons: Jones missed most of the 2013 season due to injuries, but don't let his absence make you forget about him. He was on pace to average over 100 yards per game and would have ranked among the top 10 players at his position based on fantasy points. If you're able to pick up Jones past the second round, it's really like stealing a superstar.

18. Brandon Marshall, WR, Chicago Bears: In his first two seasons in Chicago (with Jay Cutler), Marshall has recorded a combined 218 catches, 2,803 yards and 23 touchdowns. He's also finished no worse than fifth in fantasy points among wide receivers. Even with Alshon Jeffery emerging into a star, Marshall is still easily one of the top 5-10 players at his position.

19. Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans: Foster missed a total of eight games due to injuries in 2013 and had fewer rushing touchdowns than Jets DT Sheldon Richardson! On a positive note, he has been cleared to return to work after undergoing a surgical procedure on his back. Barring any sort of setbacks, he'll be well worth a second-round pick as a high-end No. 2 fantasy runner.

20. Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Martin was a massive disappointment last season, as he missed 10 games with a bum shoulder and wasn't that great in the stat sheets when he was active. Still, he's a young runner who should rebound in an offense that will lean on him as its centerpiece. Martin has also been cleared for work, so his stock is back on the rise again.

Round 3

21. Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers: Brown broke out in 2013, recording career bests almost across the board while finishing second among wide receivers in catches (110). He ranked among the top 10 wideouts in fantasy points in all standard leagues and went third in PPR formats.

22. Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos: Manning is coming off an historic season that saw him set new NFL records for passing yards (5,477) and passing touchdowns (55), and he also led all players with over 400 fantasy points. He'll go higher than this in most drafts, but not in mine.

Follow Fabiano on Twitter
NFL.com fantasy editor Michael Fabiano is on Twitter. Follow along as he posts daily blogs, columns and video analysis to help you win a fantasy title.

23. Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals: The addition of new OC Hue Jackson in Cincinnati could be massive for Bernard, who is a major candidate to move up in future mock drafts. I expect him to emerge into a serous fantasy star this year.

24. Reggie Bush, RB, Detroit Lions: Bush missed some time due to injuries, but he still ranked 11th in fantasy points among running backs in standard leagues and ninth in PPR formats. He isn't going to be a true featured back, however, as Joique Bell will no doubt continue to see work.

25. Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers: Nelson has recorded 1,200-plus receiving yards and a combined 23 touchdown catches in each of his last two full seasons for the Packers. As long as he can avoid injuries, which have been a problem in the past, Nelson should post WR1 totals in 2014.

26. Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals: Coach Bruce Arians wants to build his offense around Ellington, who showed flashes of potential as a rookie. With the retirement of Rashard Mendenhall, the Clemson product is a prime sleeper/breakout candidate for the Cardinals and fantasy owners.

27. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints: No quarterback in the NFL has been more consistent for fantasy leaguers than Brees, who has ranked no worse than second in fantasy points at his position in five of the last six seasons. He's likely to go much higher than this in most 2014 drafts.

28. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers: Rodgers was 22nd in fantasy points among quarterbacks in 2013, missing seven games with a broken collarbone. If we project the numbers he posted in his seven full starts, however, Rodgers would have finished third in fantasy points at his spot.

29. Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego Chargers: Mathews had the look of a true No. 1 fantasy runner in the second half of 2013, and the Chargers plan to use him as their top runner even with Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown in the mix. Mathews is also in a contract year, which should motivate him.

30. Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens: The addition of new OC Gary Kubiak is good news for Rice, but a disappointing 2013 season plus his recent off-the-field problems are a real concern. Still, he's not an old back and remains in the conversation as a No. 2 fantasy runner in most 2014 drafts.

Round 4

31. Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco 49ers: Crabtree has all the tools to record No. 1 wideout numbers, so landing him at this stage of the draft could be a massive steal.
32. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears: A talented wideout with some of the best hands in the NFL, Jeffery makes for a terrific high-end WR2 if you can get him in this part of the draft.
33. Pierre Garcon, WR, Washington Redskins: The leading pass-catcher in the NFL this past season, Garcon finished with career bests in both receptions (113) and yardage (1,346).
34. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals: Fitzgerald found the end zone 10 times this past season, but he's also recorded fewer than 1,000 yards in back-to-back campaigns.
35. Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers: I love Cobb's versatility and upside catching passes from Rodgers, which is why I have him ranked among some of the big-name wide receivers.
36. Alfred Morris, RB, Washington Redskins: Morris had a down season compared to his breakout rookie campaign, but there's no reason he won't post RB2 totals moving forward.
37. Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans: Johnson, who will be entering his age-33 season, is a reception and yardage machine but has lacked for touchdown catches since 2010.
38. Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots: Will Gronkowski be ready for the start of 2014? That remains to be seen, but he's a risk worth taking once we get into Round 4.
39. Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers: Allen was by far the best rookie wide receiver in fantasy football this past season, not to mention the top option for Philip Rivers.
40. Wes Welker, WR, Denver Broncos: As long as Welker's concussion issues don't arise, he's a good bet to post No. 2 fantasy wideout numbers in an offense led by Manning.

Round 5

41. Julius Thomas, TE, Denver Broncos: There aren't many tight ends who will warrant a draft pick in the first five rounds of 2014 drafts, but Thomas is clearly one of them.
42. Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jackson is too inconsistent to be considered a No. 1 fantasy wideout, but I'll take him at this point as a high-end No. 2 option.
43. Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants: Cruz should rebound under new OC Ben McAdoo after what was a dreadful 2013 campaign. He should turn into a strong WR2 for fantasy leaguers.
44. Ben Tate, RB, Cleveland Browns: Tate will be a featured back with his new squad, so the sky's the limit for his fantasy appeal. He's a definite breakout candidate for owners.
45. DeSean Jackson, WR, free agent: Jackson ranked among the 10 best wide receivers in fantasy football this past season, but where he lands will no doubt affect his draft value.
46. Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles: Foles is an accurate, strong-armed quarterback in a prolific offensive attack. He's on the radar as a viable top-5 fantasy quarterback.
47. Shane Vereen, RB, New England Patriots: With Blount out of the mix, I see Vereen as the unquestioned running back to own in New England. He is a strong sleeper candidate.
48. Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans: There's been talk of the Titans cutting ties with Johnson in 2014, so his stock for next season is very much in question. Stay tuned.
49. Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts: Luck didn't put up a ton of monster stat lines in 2013, but he still ranked an impressive fourth in fantasy points among quarterbacks.
50. Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers: Newton lost his three top wideouts and had ankle surgery this offseason. He could move up again, but for now Superman's stock has fallen.


Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!

Fan Discussion

NFL News
CONTENT
15