Way Too Early Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Round 4 Results and Analysis

C.J. Spiller finally leaves the board in Round 4.

After three rounds of our way too early fantasy football mock draft, we’ve got a team with two quarterbacks, another two without a wide receiver and a handful of 2013 first-round running backs still left on the board. It’s as if we’re drafting in February or something.

Today I’ll be going over Round 4 of the draft. If you’ve missed the first three rounds, you can click here to see how Round 1 went, here for Round 2 and here for Round 3.

Round 4 Results

Pick NumberOwnerSelection
4.01Nik BonaddioC.J. Spiller, RB
4.02Brian McGladeNick Foles, QB
4.03Joe RedemannShane Vereen, RB
4.04Mark BerenbaumAndre Johnson, WR
4.05Jim SannesDeSean Jackson, WR
4.06Chris RaybonVictor Cruz, WR
4.07Daniel LindseyAndre Ellington, RB
4.08JJ ZachariasonRay Rice, RB
4.09Ryan O'ConnerEric Decker, WR
4.10Brandon GdulaMichael Crabtree, WR
4.11Keith GoldnerChris Johnson, RB
4.12Leo HowellFrank Gore, RB

Note: Scoring is 0.5 PPR, standard lineups.

Our fearless leader started the round off with a nice pick in C.J. Spiller, who, as Nik noted, is a lot better than he played last year. Though teammate Fred Jackson finished fifth in the league in Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) this season, his aging body has to crash at some point, right? Spiller was a top option just two years ago, and has the speed and ability to be a top-10 back if he can stay healthy and sustain volume.

Nick Foles went next to Brian McGlade, who admitted that selecting Foles was a homer pick. Sure, homer picks are never a good thing in fantasy, but at least Foles showed us what he’s capable of in Chip Kelly’s offense in 2013. Is it sustainable? That’s doubtful – regression will most likely be coming. The question is where Nick Foles falls to. He had the fourth-best Passing NEP per drop back rate in the NFL last year, so even if his efficiency drops a bit, he’ll still be a top-10 passer. Perhaps this pick was a little early, but it’s understandable if you’re a Foles believer.

After Foles came Shane Vereen, who showed up as a fantastic PPR back after returning from his early season injury. Vereen was a big reason Tom Brady became fantasy relevant down the stretch last year, catching 48 passes over his final seven games. As Joe Redemann, the owner who drafted him, stated, "Vereen is a premier pass-catching back with a quarterback who has pinpoint accuracy with fading strength.”

I expect Vereen’s ADP to fluctuate a lot depending on whether the league is PPR-oriented or not, perhaps even by a full round. He could easily reach the 60 reception mark if he’s healthy in 2014.

Mark Berenbaum picked Grandpa Johnson (Andre) with the next selection. From a production and situation standpoint, Andre kind of reminds me of Vincent Jackson, a wideout selected at the beginning of the third round.

The main reason for this is because Johnson, like Jackson, finished high in Reception Net Expected Points (points added on receptions), but low in Target Net Expected Points (points added on all targets). While V-Jax ranked 10th in Reception NEP and 55th in Target NEP, Johnson finished 15th and 57th within the same categories. This basically tells us that they’re effective as heck when they catch the football, but because they’re targeted so heavily and their quarterback situations are so bad, negative things happen when they don’t haul in the pigskin.

In general, this pick will more than likely shift in August once we’re more clear about the quarterback situation in Houston.

DeSean Jackson left the board next to Jim Sannes, which I saw as a nice value pick considering some of the wideouts that went before him. Because of Nick Foles’ stellar play, Jackson ended the season with the 12th-best Reception NEP and the third-best Target NEP. It was easily his best season as a pro.

After Jackson came Victor Cruz (wide receiver run!), as Chris Raybon selected his first wide receiver. I love the pick. Cruz had a down year because offense didn’t exist in New York this year (for either New York team, actually), but don’t assume he’s going to simply go away in 2014.

Despite this down year, Cruz still had six top-24 performances in PPR leagues at wide receiver, which is just as many as players like Torrey Smith and Vincent Jackson. And although his Net Expected Points scores were far lower than we’re used to seeing (he’s typically been a top-15 guy), he still contributed as many points for the Giants this year as Julian Edelman did for the Patriots, thanks to bigger plays.

A lot of things went wrong for the Giants offense in 2014. A lot. Considering this could be Cruz’s floor as a top target in the offense, Raybon got great value in the middle of Round 4.

Daniel Lindsey took Andre Ellington with the next pick in the draft, which, as he admitted, was a reach. Though Rashard Mendenhall isn’t an effective back, the assumption here would be that he’s a Cardinal in 2014, even though he’s a free agent. And as we saw this year, if Mendenhall is on the team, head coach Bruce Arians is going to be inclined to keep him involved.

However, if we’re thinking hypothetically, picking Ellington here with the assumption that Mendenhall is gone is probably the right value. We’ve seen questionable starting running backs go in the Round 4 to 5 range in the past, which is right where Lindsey got one of 2013’s most efficient runners.

After Ellington, I went ahead and drafted my third running back, Ray Rice. This was prior to his recent legal situation – had I known he would do what he did, I would’ve stayed away.

Though Rice was the absolute worst running back in the NFL last year in terms of Rushing NEP, I’m optimistic that the Ravens will turn around the running game with Gary Kubiak coordinating the team’s offense. Rather than reiterating my thoughts on the running game under Kubiak (and to stop talking about Ray Rice), you can read more here on Kubiak.

After Rice came Eric Decker, as Ryan O’Conner selected the free agent wide receiver. The Broncos are really screwing up this draft with their moving offseason parts, but again, we’re assuming Decker would be in Denver in 2014.

Decker was hit or miss in 2013, as he had seven top-24 PPR performances (excluding Week 17), with five of those being top-12 ones. When he had a good game, it was usually a really good one, which makes him a little more unpredictable than his (perhaps soon to be “ex”) teammate Demaryius Thomas. He’s a monster though, and if he’s with Manning, he’s a top-20 option at wideout.

Brandon Gdula selected Michael Crabtree next, a wide receiver who probably would’ve been selected higher if not for sitting out the majority of the 2013 season with an Achilles injury.

It’s kind of amazing, but Crabtree still hasn’t played a full season with Colin Kaepernick. He played seven regular season games with Kap in 2012 (and dominated), and just five more in 2013. But in those games, Crabtree’s played at a high-end WR2 pace, though he may always be a little handcuffed by San Francisco’s low pass-to-run ratio.

To finish off the fourth round, Keith Goldner and Leo Howell went for two veteran backs, Chris Johnson and Frank Gore. Johnson probably won’t be a Titan in 2014, but remember, he’s a member of the team according to the rules of this draft. Though he’s rarely efficient in terms of NEP, CJWhateverK traditionally sees enough volume to warrant this selection a value pick.

As for Gore, at some point he’s going to fall apart. But we also say this every single season. He wasn’t great on the ground in 2013, finishing the year as the fifth-worst 200-plus attempt runner in terms of Rushing Net Expected Points. However, because he’s a pounder between the tackles, and because he plays on the most run-heavy team in the league, Gore’s never really seen high efficiency. He’s just Frank Gore – a running back who gets it done. And there’s always a chance he can do it again in 2014.