It's April, so you know what that means right? No, I'm not talking about the start of baseball season (though I am excited despite modest expectations for my beloved New York Yankees). April means mock drafts, at least in the world of the National Football League. That's because in just a few short weeks, all 32 teams will be looking to improve their chances for 2015 and beyond with the annual rookie draft.
It's an important time for fantasy fans too, as we've already seen a ton of player movement via trades and the free agent market. Now, the draft will further clarify depth charts as we next look forward to training camp and the start of a new season. As a result, the NFL Fantasy crew huddled up for one final mock fantasy draft before the rookie class is selected. It was a standard 15-round draft with nine starters and a basic scoring system.
Here's a look at my picks and what my thought process was during the draft. As you'll see, my strategy hasn't changed much ...
Round 1, Pick 4: Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs -- I will almost always take a running back in Round 1, especially when I have a pick in the top half of the round. Thus, taking Charles should come as a surprise to no one. He was the third-ranked runner on my board behind Le'Veon Bell and Eddie Lacy, so I was pleased to land him at No. 4. Charles should continue to thrive in 2015.
Round 2, Pick 17: Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings -- I don't know where he's going to play, but I do know that he will play next season. With a chip on his shoulder and coming off a year that saw him record just 21 carries, Peterson will be fresh and motivated to produce. This could be one of the best steals of this mock draft ... imagine if A.D. ends up with the Dallas Cowboys?
Round 3, Pick 24: Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers -- My typical strategy is to take an elite wide receiver in the second round, but I just couldn't pass on Peterson. As a result, my focus turned to wide receivers in the next few rounds. The best player left at the position (on my board) was Cobb, who should remain a top-10 fantasy wideout in 2015 after re-signing with the Packers.
Round 4, Pick 37: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans -- Hopkins, entering his third pro season, finished 15th in points among wideouts in 2015. Now that the Texans have moved on from Andre Johnson, the Clemson product should be even better in the stat sheets moving forward. I'm banking on Hopkins to continue his development into an elite wideout, despite the team's quarterback issues.
Round 5, Pick 44: DeSean Jackson, WR, Washington Redskins -- Jackson has finished in the top 20 in fantasy points among wide receivers in each of the last two seasons and I like that trend to remain the same in 2015. While he can be unreliable at times, Jackson has produced over 2,400 receiving yards and a combined 15 touchdowns since 2013. Also keep in mind that he's just 28 years old.
Round 6, Pick 57: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin (rookie) -- I'm not sure where Gordon will land in the NFL Draft, but I do love his upside with a team like the Cowboys or San Diego Chargers. One of the two best projected running backs in the 2015 class, Gordon could come right in and produce in the stat sheets if he ends up with a team that allows him a chance to start right out of the gate.
Round 7, Pick 64: Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers -- Over the final four weeks of last season, Newton was the fourth-highest scoring quarterback in fantasy football. Fans should also remember that he was a top-four field general in each of his first three NFL campaigns. He'll enter training camp healthy as well, which is another reason to think Newton will rebound in the stat sheets.
Round 8, Pick 77: Michael Floyd, WR, Arizona Cardinals -- With a quarterback, three running backs and three wideouts on my roster, now's the time to focus on adding a tight end or depth. Since there were still a ton of good tight ends available, depth was the decision. Floyd has the skills to be a top-20 fantasy receiver, at least as long as Carson Palmer is on the field for the Cardinals.
Round 9, Pick 84: Chris Ivory, RB, New York Jets -- Same drill here as in Round 8 ... there were still some good tight ends on the board, so I went with depth and added Ivory as my No. 4 running back. With Chris Johnson out of the mix and little competition for carries (at least for now), Ivory figures to see more than his share of the rush attempts for new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey.
Round 10, Pick 97: Jordan Cameron, TE, Miami Dolphins -- Now was the time to add my starting tight end, and Cameron was the best one left on my board. While I do like his move to Miami from a fantasy perspective, I do worry about his concussion issues and the fact that he's not much of a blocker. Still, there's some upside here at a position that is devoid of any kind of depth entering 2015.
Round 11, Pick 104: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers -- The fact that Roethlisberger was still on the board in Round 11 is further proof that you can wait on a quarterback ... and remember, I already have Newton. Though he produced a major percentage of his overall points in a mere five games, Big Ben did finish as the fifth-best signal-caller in fantasy football a season ago.
Round 12, Pick 117: LeGarrette Blount, RB, New England Patriots -- Remember the days when you could count on a Patriots running back to produce for your fantasy football team? Yeah, it sure seems like awhile ago. At this point, the team appears to be content with Blount ... though that will likely change after the NFL Draft. But for now, the veteran made sense as the No. 5 runner on my roster.
Round 13, Pick 124: Stephen Gostkowski, K, New England Patriots -- There is only one kicker I would select before one of the final two rounds of a fantasy draft, and that kicker is Gostkowski. He's a virtual lock to finish among the top three players at his position, as he's scored no fewer than 157 fantasy points in each of the last three seasons. That's more than Jimmy Graham had in 2014.
Round 14, Pick 137: Anquan Boldin, WR, San Francisco 49ers -- In a standard 15-round draft, I like to finish with five running backs and five wide receivers. Boldin, who finished 24th among wideouts in fantasy points last season, fills that fifth spot at the position. That's not too bad a spot for a player who has recorded over 160 catches and a combined 2,241 over the last two seasons.
Round 15, Pick 144: Philadelphia Eagles defense -- It's the final round, and with Gostkowski on the roster I need to finish things with a defense. The Eagles, who led the position in fantasy points in 2014, were the best unit left on my board. Based on their offseason moves, this team should still be a nice option moving forward. Regardless, I can stream defenses in a worst-case scenario.