The NFL returns in less than two weeks, and my mock draft series (See: Mock 1, Mock 2, Mock 3, Mock 4, Mock 5, Mock 6, Mock 7, Mock 8, Mock 9, Mock 10, Mock 11 and Mock 12.) is all but over. So, what did I learn from my mocks that I will take into my REAL drafts? Here are the top 10 things I learned.
1. I have preached for years and years to wait on drafting a quarterback. This year, it’s very simple: You can wait until at least the 10th round to draft a top-10 QB.
• Mahomes and Jackson are gone by the third round. They sometimes go in the first or second, but they never get out of the third.
• The next quarterbacks (Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson, Dak Prescott and Deshaun Watson) are being drafted in Rounds 4-6. There does not seem to be a consensus order of these quarterbacks. Murray seems to be “reached” for the earliest — sometimes in the fourth round.
• Josh Allen goes by the seventh round, if he is your target.
• The next couple of quarterbacks (Matt Ryan and Carson Wentz) are going in Rounds 8-9.
2. I am a running-backs-early-and-often drafter — always was, always am and always will be. But 2020 may be the best year ever to use a ZERO RB approach. I am not sure I can make myself do it, but in one particular mock draft I started out by saying, “Take the safest player available when you pick.” I took Davante Adams in Round 1 and Patrick Mahomes in Round 2 — real safe and a pretty solid start. Robert Woods was there in Round 3, and … the ZERO RB draft was on. I grabbed my first running back in Round 6. I ended up taking J.K. Dobbins, Marlon Mack and Phillip Lindsay and added a few more backup running backs along the way, and poof, the ZERO RB strategy was completed. Does this strategy take some luck? Sure, but in a year like this, playing it safe could be the best strategy.
3. At tight end, everyone is going to be good, right? We know Travis Kelce and George Kittle are the top two guys and typically do not make it out of the second round. Mark Andrews usually goes in the fourth and Zach Ertz by the fifth. After that, you take tight ends based on what you believe:
• Can Tyler Higbee be the player he was at the end of 2019 with Gerald Everett and Copper Kupp healthy?
• Can Darren Waller repeat his breakout year in Vegas?
• Can Evan Engram stay healthy?
• Does Austin Hooper, now with Cleveland, continue to be a top-five tight end?
• Will T.J. Hockenson, Noah Fant or Mike Gesicki emerge?
• What do we do with Gronk?
So many questions … with few answers.
4. Rookies are scary — scary good or scary because on the lack of a true offseason. We won’t really know this until Week 4. We love Clyde Edwards-Helaire in Kansas City, but do we really believe he will get 250-plus touches during his rookie year without an offseason? Jonathan Taylor is a true stud running back, but how long will it take the Colts to move Marlon Mack (who is good) to a backup role? Rookie receivers include Jalen Reagor, Brandon Aiyuk, Justin Jefferson, Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Pittman Jr. … the list goes on. But none of them are better than my team’s WR3 to start. Joe Burrow will be a star … but can he be a league winner in his rookie year? Many questions but few true answers headed into your draft. Take one or two rookies, but … DO NOT LOAD UP ON THEM. Oh, and rookie tight ends? Just ignore them.
5. Handcuff, handcuff and then handcuff some more. Taking Derrick Henry in Round 1? Better draft Darrynton Evans by Round 9. Drafting Dalvin Cook? Better draft Alexander Mattison by Round 8. Drafting Joe Mixon? Better draft Trayveon Williams by Round 14. Remember, handcuffs are more valuable to you then others so do not worry about ADP and value; take them when you can make sure you get them. If that is a round earlier then you would usually draft them, so be it. Handcuff as many players as possible based on your format.
6. Load up on running backs and wide receivers. Wait on quarterbacks and tight ends … very simple.
7. In a 12-team, 16-round draft, take a defense in Round 13 and a kicker in Round 14. That still leaves you two rounds for sleepers and darts. In a 15-round draft, it’s Rounds 12 and 13. In a 14-team league, it’s Rounds 11 and 12 … and so on.
8. Make sure your league has IR spots available. I addressed this in another article, but in the year of COVID, it bears repeating.
9. Here are my top 10 sleepers:
• Darrynton Evans, even if you do not draft Derrick Henry
• Joshua Kelly
• Dare Ogunbowale
• Dan Arnold
• O.J. Howard
• Chase Edmunds
• Scotty Miller
• Teddy Bridgewater
• Drew Lock
• Mohamed Sanu
10. So this one is out there, but I truly hate drafting kickers and defenses. I know they are necessary, and unlike my friend Jake Ciely (@allinkid), who wants to ban all kickers, I had another thought. Let’s ban all kickers and defenses from fantasy drafts, but add $25 to everyone’s FAAB and bid for those players/teams after the draft. That adds two rounds to the draft, then those who value kickers and defenses can pay for their favorite ones if they so choose. Kickers are people, too — I just want to stop drafting them.
Good luck in your drafts!
Ken Zalis ranked No. 3 in FantasyPros’ 2019 Fantasy Football Draft Accuracy Rankings.