The NFL Fantasy folks held their first mock draft for the 2017 season this week, and man was it odd. Very odd.
How odd, you might ask? Well, Kirk Cousins didn't get drafted. He was the fifth-best quarterback in fantasy football last season! Ben Roethlisberger didn't get drafted either. The same went for Derek Carr, Tyrod Taylor, Philip Rivers and Matthew Stafford. Kyle Rudolph also didn't get picked. He was a top-10 tight end last season. Same for Antonio Gates and Julius Thomas. Zach Ertz didn't get picked either.
Notice a trend?
Times are changing my friends. Even though quarterbacks score the most fantasy points, the position is so deep that even some of the best signal-callers didn't come off the board. There was talk that drafting a quarterback didn't even make sense once the top names were picked, because it was better to load up on the running back and wide receiver spots and just grab a field general off the waiver wire. The same thing seems to be happening at tight end, too. With just a handful of reliable options at the position, why waste an important draft pick on someone who might pan out and become a reliable fantasy starter?
It was a strange draft indeed, and it was none more evident than when you ventured into the middle to late rounds.
Here's a look at the team I drafted and what I was thinking along the way with each selection. The draft was 15 rounds and based on the NFL's standard scoring system (non-PPR), and none of the teams were required to draft a kicker or a defense (so I didn't). That doesn't change the mock results much, as neither of those positions is worth more than a late-round (13-15) selection. To me, it makes a mock draft even more valuable in that there are more skill position players picked. At the end of the day, that's what we're looking for with these mocks ... where certain players (not a kicker or a defense) were chosen.
Enjoy. There will be more of these to come!
Round 1, Pick 7 - Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons: One of the odd things about this draft was that I didn't take a running back in the first round. That's because the big three (David Johnson, Le'Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliott) were off the board and I valued Jones more than the next best runner, LeSean McCoy. One of the elite wideouts in fantasy football, Jones is a virtual lock to finish in the top five in points at his position. He's also expected to be back from foot surgery well in time for training camp.
Round 2, Pick 14 - Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago Bears: Howard broke out as a rookie, posting 1,313 rushing yards and seven total touchdowns while finishing ninth in fantasy points among running backs. He recorded these numbers despite the fact that he started just 13 of his 15 games and saw a combined 12 carries in his first two contests behind former starter Jeremy Langford. While the threat of a sophomore slump looms, Howard should see plenty of work as the centerpiece of a new-look Chicago offense.
Round 3, Pick 27 - Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco 49ers: Hyde finished 15th in fantasy points among running backs a season ago, and he did it despite missing three games. Therein lies the issue, as the Ohio State product has missed a combined 14 games over his first three pro seasons due to injuries. On a positive note, he should be motivated to stay on the field during a contract year. Hyde will also benefit from the presence of coach Kyle Shanahan, assuming his abilities can be molded to fit the system.
Round 4, Pick 34 - Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos: Thomas is coming off his worst fantasy season since 2011, which was expected after the retirement of Peyton Manning, but he still finished 19th in fantasy points among wideouts. Trevor Siemian now has one full season as a starter under his belt, and the return of Mike McCoy as the offensive coordinator should be a positive for the veteran. While I don't see him moving back into the elite level, Thomas should be a far better No. 2 fantasy receiver.
Round 5, Pick 47 - Eddie Lacy, RB, Seattle Seahawks: While I'm not on the Lacy bandwagon, at least for those who project him to re-emerge into a reliable fantasy runner, I do think he's worth the risk as a potential flex starter. There are pros and cons to be certain, but the Seahawks need to re-establish a ground attack that disappeared last season without Marshawn Lynch. Lacy, who was paid starter's money ($5.5M), will have every chance to be the top runner for Pete Carroll.
Round 6, Pick 54 - Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers: You might not realize it, but Adams scored 12 touchdowns and finished seventh in fantasy points among wide receivers last season ... ahead of guys like Brandin Cooks, Doug Baldwin, Amari Cooper and a bunch of other big-name wideouts. While I expect a regression in the number of end-zone visits he makes, landing Adams as a No. 3 wideout was worth the middle-round price. After all, star quarterback Aaron Rodgers will still be throwing him the ball.
Round 7, Pick 67 - Jimmy Graham, TE, Seattle Seahawks: With three running backs and three wideouts on the roster, I decided to go with the best tight end left on the board. That tight end was Graham, who emerged from his 2015 statistical hibernation to post 923 yards and six touchdowns last season. With the position being as thin as it is right now, I'd advise fantasy owners to take one of the top six players with one of their first seven to eight picks. Otherwise, it's best to wait until the later rounds.
Round 8, Pick 74 - Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints: If you know me at all, you know that I like to wait on a quarterback. But when an elite signal-caller like Brees falls into the eighth round, I have to take him. Though he turned 38 back in January, the future Hall of Famer has shown no signs of slowing down in the stat sheets. He's also going to have a better running game behind him (one would think) with the addition of Adrian Peterson, and Brees is sure to be motivated entering a contract year.
Round 9, Pick 87 - Eric Decker, WR, New York Jets: There are a lot of questions surrounding Decker coming off shoulder and hip injuries, but recent reports have him slated to return in time for the start of training camp. The veteran is also now the unquestioned top option in the Jets pass attack without Brandon Marshall, so I wasn't mad at the fact that he fell to me at this point in the draft. There's risk to be sure, but I don't mind the risk because Decker is the fourth wideout I drafted on this team.
Round 10, Pick 94 - Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinnati Bengals: There were virtually no upside picks at running back at this point. Most of the younger runners were chosen, including rookies like Jamaal Williams and Samaje Perine, so I took a flier on Hill. Do I think Joe Mixon is going to lead the Bengals in backfield touches? Yes. But can Hill be involved, even as a goal-line back in a worst-case scenario? Yessir. He has rushed for 20 scores in the last two years, and he's the fourth back on this fantasy roster.
Round 11, Pick 107 - Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina Panthers: Benjamin ranked 20th in fantasy points among wideouts last season, but his three best games came in the first two weeks and the finale (when a lot of fantasy leagues were over). He has also put on a few pounds in the offseason, but he has plenty of time to lose the weight and get back in the good graces of Carolina's coaches. I'm not a huge fan overall, but I do think that Benjamin is still worth a pick here as the fifth wideout on this team.
Round 12, Pick 114 - Latavius Murray, RB, Minnesota Vikings: Dalvin Cook is the fantasy running back to target in Minnesota, and for good reason. The team traded up to get him in the second round of the NFL Draft and he's a superior talent compared to Murray and Jerick McKinnon. With that said, I do think Murray is still worth a late flier if for no other reason than he'll be given a chance to compete for work after signing a three-year, $15 million contract. His stock has taken a massive hit, though.
Round 13, Pick 127 - Jeremy Maclin, WR, Kansas City Chiefs: There are some veterans that fantasy fans have forgotten about, whether it's due to a bad 2016 campaign or the emergence of a younger talent. In the case of Maclin, it's both. He missed time last season due to injuries, and Tyreek Hill became a huge playmaker. But why not take a late flier on a guy who is just 28 years old and put up a combined 2,406 yards and 18 touchdowns between 2014-2015? Maclin could push back as a viable No. 3/4 option.
Round 14, Pick 134 - Dion Lewis, RB, New England Patriots: I thought Lewis could turn into a decent draft bargain before the Patriots signed every running back in the league this offseason. Alright, so that's not accurate but it sure felt like it, right? The team added Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead to go along with incumbents Lewis and James White to what is a super crowded New England backfield. What does that mean for Lewis? Well, he's on the No. 5/6 running back radar and worth a flier at best.
Round 15, Pick 147 - J.J. Nelson, WR, Arizona Cardinals: Nelson showed some flashes of potential for the Cardinals last season, and there should be available opportunities in the offense with Michael Floyd out of the mix. The team still has future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald, however, and it looks like John Brown (sickle cell) could be back as a starter after a lost 2016 campaign. Still, Nelson figures to compete for a prominent role in the pass attack and is an upside wideout to target late in drafts.
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!