Way Too Early Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Round 1 Results and Analysis

Did Peyton Manning get selected in the first round?

The Super Bowl ended less than two weeks ago, and we’re already looking forward to fantasy football in 2014. Are we sick individuals? Probably.

I know, I know – it’s way too early to be doing a mock draft. The NFL Draft is still a few months away, and big free agents haven’t signed mega deals with new teams yet. I mean, how would we know where to draft Brandon Weeden now that he’s let the world know that he wants out of Cleveland?

So instead of doing an entire mock draft - one that would include a lot of unknowns - the numberFire crew decided to do just a six-round one, as most of the players selected in that range face less ambiguity. Aside from a few guys, of course.

The assumption entering the draft was that the players selected would be playing for the same team they did in 2013. It seems only natural that a drafter would be a little hesitant to snag a guy like Knowshon Moreno though, so keep that in mind as you read the series of articles I’ll be writing around this degenerate mock.

We’ll start with the first round of the draft today – a place many fantasy owners felt like failures in 2013.

First Round Results

We had a good collection of article contributors and numberFire employees in the draft, allowing for folks to see a lot of different early 2014 strategies. Entering the draft, I think the biggest wild cards were Jimmy Graham, Josh Gordon and Peyton Manning – I really wasn't sure how the guys would value them. I found out that, indeed, they were all first-round draft selections.

Pick NumberOwnerSelection
1.01Leo HowellLeSean McCoy, RB
1.02Keith GoldnerJamaal Charles, RB
1.03Brandon GdulaMatt Forte, RB
1.04Ryan O'ConnerCalvin Johnson, WR
1.05JJ ZachariasonEddie Lacy, RB
1.06Daniel LindseyMarshawn Lynch, RB
1.07Chris RaybonLe'Veon Bell, RB
1.08Jim SannesJosh Gordon, WR
1.09Mark BerenbaumAdrian Peterson, RB
1.10Joe RedemannJimmy Graham, TE
1.11Brian McGladeDemaryius Thomas, WR
1.12Nik BonaddioPeyton Manning, QB

Note: Scoring is 0.5 PPR, standard lineups.

Let’s start from the beginning. Leo Howell went with Shady McCoy, who ended the 2013 season with the highest Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) total – by far – among all running backs. In Chip Kelly’s offense, McCoy rushed the ball more than any runner in the league last year, and added to that with 52 receptions. It’s a solid pick, and barring injury, McCoy should find himself at least as a top-10 running back next year.

Jamaal Charles went second overall to numberFire’s Chief Analyst, Keith Goldner, in what was the least surprising pick of the first round, and possibly the draft. Charles was fantasy’s best runner this year, scoring 40 more PPR points than second-place Matt Forte last season.

I know there are some “but running backs don’t repeat as the best in fantasy very often” people, but that’s really unscientific. Charles can easily be the best again next year as long as Alex Smith is dumping it off to him like he did in 2013.

The third pick, again, wasn’t very surprising. Matt Forte thrived under Marc Trestman this season, similar to how Charlie Garner did when Trestman coordinated the Raiders offense about 11 or 12 years ago. One thing that may turn folks off is that Forte will be 29 years old in December, which is getting up there in running back age.

But there’s a lot of upside within the Bears’ offense, and Forte’s been one of the most consistent yardage backs in the league since he entered in 2008. He’s yet to have fewer than 1,400 total yards, and given this is a 0.5 PPR league, you can expect Forte to hit about 50 receptions each year, especially in his current offense. Brandon made a nice, safe pick in getting Forte third overall.

After Forte came the first wideout, as Calvin Johnson was selected by Ryan O’Conner in the four spot. It’s tough to knock someone for picking Megatron, who has consistently been a top-10 receiver since 2010. While other guys are keeping pace, yearly consistency at wide receiver is tough to find, and Johnson is the safest option at the position.

I made the first controversial pick in the draft, which will probably happen to anyone who sits at number five overall in August. I went with Eddie Lacy because I’m a proponent of weekly consistency, as shown by the running back value series I’ve been writing about.

Last year, in less than 15 games mind you, Lacy posted the fifth-most top-24 performances in PPR leagues at running back. Though his Rushing NEP was average among volume runners, he proved that he can be a workhorse in an offense that was missing Aaron Rodgers, which should only make him, Lacy, stronger in 2014. That’s why I went with him.

After my Lacy pick, things started to get less and less obvious. Daniel Lindsey took Marshawn Lynch, another aging back who, like Forte, should still be able to produce at least another season. Lynch was made for Seattle. He has three positive Rushing NEP seasons (something fairly difficult to do as a high-volume back), and each of those have come over the last three years, his only three with Seattle. It was a sound pick from Lindsey.

Chris Raybon shocked a few people with his next selection of Le’Veon Bell, but aside from my Steeler fandom, I liked it a lot. Again, I’m a lover for consistency, and that’s what Le’Veon gets you.

He’s not a high ceiling guy, let’s get that out of the way, but Bell catches the ball out of the backfield just as well as anyone, and will see volume in Pittsburgh’s offense that makes him a reliable RB1. Over his 13 games during his rookie year, Bell finished with 11 top-24 (RB1 or 2) performances, which was just as many as Knowshon Moreno. Though he went higher than expected in this one, Bell may be underrated entering 2014.

Josh Gordon went next to Jim Sannes, and I have to say, I’m slightly in love with the pick. I did a breakdown on Gordon last week, showing that he has indeed outplayed Calvin Johnson so far over his first two years. Moreover, he’s doing it with worse quarterback play, which makes it even more impressive.

The way I view Gordon and Megatron in 2014 – and yes, I know it’s early, so this can change – is that Megatron’s safer, but Gordon has the higher ceiling, if that’s possible. While a natural regression could occur for Gordon, an upgrade at quarterback could help him be even more efficient with his targets, even if the volume is lost a bit as a result. We shouldn’t expect 1,900 yards receiving, but it’s not absurd to think he’ll catch double-digit touchdowns in 2014.

It’s amazing to see Adrian Peterson slip to the nine spot, but that’ll happen to a guy who will be 29 next season. I think AP dropped a little too far, though I suppose I understand the reason behind it. The fact is, Peterson is a monster, and has only two negative Rushing NEP seasons out of the seven he’s played. Moreover, one of them was -0.47 (barely under zero), while the other was -12.41, which is basically as efficient as Le’Veon Bell was this past season.

Is he an injury risk? I guess so, but he’s also Adrian Peterson. He’s rushed for double-digit touchdowns in every single NFL season, including the year where he only played 12 games before tearing his ACL.

The biggest knock on AP is his lack of action in the receiving game. He caught just 29 passes a season ago, which isn’t on the same level as the elite talent like Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy. That’s why I’m fine with him being outside the top-tier runners, but I’d probably go for AP over someone like Marshawn Lynch at this point in the offseason.

Joe Redemann took Jimmy Graham at 10, which will look like a steal to many. I’m a late tight end guy, but I understand the allure. Graham is far superior compared to other players at the position, and you gain an instant weekly edge with him in your lineup. If you go the tight end or quarterback route early, you just better make sure you lock up some solid running backs, the scarce position in fantasy.

The final two picks went to numberFire’s iOS Engineer, Brian Mcglade, and CEO and Founder, Nik Bonaddio. Brian chose to go the Demaryius Thomas route, which should be a safe bet considering who’s throwing him the football. Thomas finished second in the NFL in Target NEP this year, and third in Reception NEP. In other words, he was catching everything, and was among the elite.

Nik finished off the first round when he chose Peyton Manning. While I’m openly a late-round quarterback fantasy owner, like the Jimmy Graham selection, I understand this one. And Nik even stated that “it was a difficult pick to make” because he, too, doesn’t like taking quarterbacks early. However, he also did note that “there wasn’t a running back or wide receiver value for me – I believe in best player possible.”

So there you have it - the first round of the far, far too early mock draft is complete. Stay tuned in the coming days for the analysis of the next (and final) five rounds.