Yes the regular season just closed two weeks ago, but that just makes the fire burn even harder for those who pine away during the off-season. What a better time to hold a 2015 mock draft. Admittedly, it is absurdly early, and that things will change drastically once we hit August. Regardless, its a fun exercise to see how the fantasy thinking evolves over the long off-season.
We rounded up 12 friends and contributors at Football Schedule and took on the unenviable task of building a team before knowing what free agency, the draft and preseason injuries have in store for us. The league in question is a 12-man PPR league starting 1 quarterback, 2 wide receivers, 2 running backs, 1 tight end, 1 flex (WR/RB/TE), 1 kicker and a defense.
To keep it interesting, we’ll be drafting a round every three days until we reach the promise land. I’ll add commentary next to each of my league mates picks for good measure.
> Round 1
1. LeVeon Bell (Jason)
Who says you should stay away from sophomore running backs? With the emergence of Antonio Brown and Big Ben putting up 60-point passing afternoons, LeVeon found some room in the box to run the ball. And run he did taking the crown as the most productive back of 2015. Still a young pup at 22, Bell will be the center piece of that Pittsburgh offense for many years to come. The Steelers draw one of the toughest schedules in football in 2015, trying to navigate the savage defenses of the AFC North. Can LeVeon maintain his high level of production meeting brick wall after brick wall each week?
2. Matt Forte (Robert)
When it comes to PPR, Forte is a God. His ability to catch short passes out of the backfield allowed him to rack up absurd point totals every week. I wouldn’t have blinked an eye if he went first overall. The big thing going against him is this mass of uncertainty in Chicago. Trestman is out. Culter may be telling Kristen to pack their bags. What does the Bears offense look like in 2015, and how does Forte fit into it? Its a pretty easy bet to say he will continue to reign supreme, but I can understand pumping the brakes on this pick.
3. DeMarco Murray (Todd)
Bold pick. His 2014 production was no joke. He was outstanding week over week, running over everyone in his path. He even seemed to stiff arm his injury prone status until week 16 found him under the surgeons knife. No matter. He still played that week, putting up a touchdown and 58 yard in limited action. The key problem here is that he probably won’t be a Cowboy following this season. Jerry doesn’t have the cashola to sign him so he’ll hit the open market. Many believe that Cowboys line was largely responsible for Murray’s production. As stellar as he is, this is a risky pick with so many unknowns.
4. Eddie Lacy (Rick)
Fat Eddie came to eat in his sophomore campaign. His first three weeks were very painful, and many owners that drafted him high in the first jumped ship. Unfortunately, they didn’t remember that 2013 followed much of the same pattern. He was consistent as could be down the stretch, regularly putting up a touchdown and 100 yard games weekly. With all the defensive pressure on Rodgers, expect Lacy to continue to eat in 2015.
5. Jamaal Charles (Dave)
Jamaal Charles may not have been the heavy weight of running backs that we expected him to be in 2014, but is anyone really counting him out? His decline in production was more to do with Andy Reid not using his best offensive weapon than anything else. Jamaal will bounce back and anyone using a mid-first round pick will most likely be happy as punch that they put 2014 firmly in their rear view when drafting.
6. Antonio Brown (Kent)
Out with Calvin Johnson and in with Antonio Brown. The changing of the guard was more than warranted as Calvin spent much of the season either injured or hampered by Matthew Stafford’s erratic arm. Antonio was more than happy to take over as the next great NFL receiver. Brown was a big play threat whenever he touched the ball. Roethlisberger didn’t always have effective options in Miller, Martavius and Wheaton so Brown probably got a few more receptions than he otherwise would. The big question mark in my mind is Martavius Bryant. With a season to learn the playbook and get his feet underneath him, does the towering answer to void of Mike Wallace spell fewer touchdowns for Brown?
7. Marshawn Lynch (Al)
Beast mode was still beasting in 2014. After all the questions about him not meshing with the coaching staff in Seattle, Marshawn crushed the competition as he’s been known to do. What happens in 2015? Reports are that the team will move on with capable backs Michael and Turbin waiting in the wings. If that is the case, its a real crap shoot trying to figure out where he will land and how productive he will be behind his new offensive line.
8. Odell Beckham Jr (Brian)
This was the guy I was most curious to see where he came off the board. Beckham is an otherworldly talent, but the sample size is still small. What happens when Cruz is factored back into the mix? Can he keep up the highlight reel production after defensive coordinators have had a whole off season to prepare for the LSU beast. We shall see.
9. LeSean McCoy (Patrick)
McCoy really got in Chip Kelly’s doghouse down the stretch. He lost goal line carries to Chris Polk, and fantasy owners slammed their head against a wall as he was passed over time and again as the Eagles sat on the 1. I’ve got to think that McCoy’s talent ultimately wins out here. I can’t see the Eagles reverting into a RBBC with McCoy being the workhorse and Polk being the goal line plunger in 2015. They’ll rejigger the offense in the off-season and McCoy will refind his touchdown mojo. If that is the case, he becomes a steal in the nine spot.
10. Arian Foster (Eliot)
Its always interesting to see where Foster goes off the board. The guy is as talented as any running back on the board, but his injuries will leave you scrambling for coverage at least a few weeks during the season. 2014 was better than most on the injury front, but he’s make me as nervous as a cat locked in a room full of rocking chairs if I had to pin my fantasy football hopes on him week after week.
11. Andrew Luck (Ed)
Obviously Ed didn’t have Luck manning his team in week 15 when he torpedoed everyone’s chances at a championship. Still Luck put up stellar numbers throughout the season. In many weeks, he carried his teams to victory. There is a lot to be said for a consistent quarterback that can give you a margin of victory each week.
12. Rob Gronkowski (Mark)
No other position was as thin in 2014 as tight end. Gronk dominated the space putting up a 40 point gap between him and no. 2 Antonio Gates. No one questions his talent or Brady’s ability to find him, but given his checkered injury past, is this too high to grab him?
> Round 2
1. CJ Anderson (Mark)
High risk, high reward pick here. Last year, Montee Ball was the heir apparent in Denver’s backfield. The young back looked like he was going to be a foundation player in the Broncos offense for years to come. Ineffective play and injuries sidelined him and Ronnie Hillman as the year moved on. CJ Anderson was nothing short of a revelation, tearing up defenses down the stretch. He can be a great back in Gary Kubick’s offense (see Arian Foster, Justin Forsett), but will he remain the lead dog in 2015?
2. Dez Bryant (Ed)
If Odell Beckman hadn’t exploded onto the fantasy scene, Dez Bryant would have closed out the back half of the season as fantasy’s number one receiver. He’s got the same circus catch moves coupled with a proven track record which will put him above the young buck in the minds of many drafters. Look for Dallas to continue to get into shootouts where Tony Romo has to use his arm to get the team the win. That plays right into Dez’s wheelhouse.
3. Aaron Rodgers (Eliot)
Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning may have been the talk of the town over the last two seasons, but Aaron Rodgers keeps plugging along, posting elite numbers season after season. With a strong running back in Eddie Lacy, a solid O-line and elite receivers to throw it to, there is no reason to believe Rodgers doesn’t keep producing like a top two quarterback.
4. Jordy Nelson (Patrick)
No one maximizes Aaron Rodgers’ arm like Jordy Nelson does. He is constantly stretching the field, making big play after big play. Much like Rodgers, Nelson is maddeningly consistent in his production. You can never have enough pieces of the NFL’s most prolific offenses.
5. Jeremy Hill (Brian)
After Gio Bernard clipped off a few electrifying runs to close out the 2013 season, most expected that he would rise up to become one of the league’s best young backs. A Jay Gruden-Hue Jackson swaparoo changed the offensive landscape in Cincy. When they drafted Jeremy Hill with 55th overall pick (end of the second), we all should have taken notice. Hill largely made everyone forget about Gio, elevating his game down the stretch. While the presence of Gio is still a concern, it should be clear to anyone that Jeremy Hill is the back to own. Gio will siphon off the passing down work, but Hill will carry the mail for the Bengals.
6. Peyton Manning (Al)
Nobody is buying even the slightest hint of retirement talk from Peyton. He will be back in Denver in 2015 vying for that second ring. Just because he operated in the later half of 2014 injuried doesn’t mean he can’t still throw with the best of them when healthy. He has number 1 QB upside each and every week. Still, the neck issue is worrisome and at his age he doesn’t bounce back from injury like he used to.
7. Demaryius Thomas (Kent)
Its best not to think about the NFC divisional game when drafting Demaryius Thomas. Those floaters from Manning were consistently off the mark all game long. Its hard to produce when your quarterback couldn’t hit you within 10 yards. We’ll chalk up Peyton Manning’s year ending slide to injury and envision the Peyton of old back under center to open the season. The threat of Emmanuel Sanders helped free some of the pressure off Demaryius. As long as Peyton is the Peyton of old, Demaryius should have another banner year.
8. Jimmy Graham (Dave)
I’m a bit surprised Graham fell this far. Tight end was by far the thinnest position in fantasy football last year. If you got five points per week, consider yourself lucky. Jimmy Graham took a step back last year due to injuries, but he can dominate the end zone just like Gronk when he is healthy. If you aren’t scared off by Gronk’s checkered injury past, Graham shouldn’t give you a second’s pause. The Saints should iron out some of their offensive hiccups this off-season, and Graham should return as one of the top pair atop the tight end leaderboard in 2015.
9. Calvin Johnson (Rick)
I can’t remember the last time I saw CalJo going in the second, but its completely warranted. He is still the best receiver in the league when he’s healthy. Unfortunately, that health has been in short supply in recent seasons. He missed a large chunk of the 2014 run and hasn’t played a full 16-game season in as long as I can remember. The guy is just risky, and not too many fantasy players are going to want to pin their WR1 hopes on a guy who is decked out in his street clothes on the sideline.
10. Adrian Peterson (Todd)
No one questions AP’s talent, but huge questions marks linger over the child abuser. Will the Vikings bring him back despise his huge salary? If they don’t, what offense does he land in? Will he show rust from the year in the Lazyboy, or will he be fresh and hungry like the season after ACL surgery? Lots of chatter puts him in Jerry Jones’ camp when they let DeMarco walk. If that is the case, he could be the number one back in fantasy in 2015. I think he is well worth the risk here.
11. Justin Forsett (Robert)
Here is where the question marks on running backs really start. Much like CJ Anderson, Forsett came out of nowhere to lead the Ravens backfield after Ray Rice found himself out of a job. After seven years in the league, its hard to believe that he just arrived one day so that may be why its hard to believe he’ll last. He’s near the end of a running backs life cycle at 29 though he doesn’t have a career starters wear on his treads. He’s also a free agent. While I think he resigns with Baltimore on a team friendly deal, you have to wonder if he will remain the lead dog or if Bernard Pierce and Lorenzo Talifero won’t try to nudge him back into his backup role.
12. Julio Jones (Jason)
It looks like we had a run on elite receivers in the second round. Julio sidestepped all those broken foot concerns, and came back to dominate as we’ve become accustomed. He put up 259 yards on 11 receptions against the Packers almost breaking an NFL two-game receiving yardage record. A hip injury kept him from completing that historic goal. Julio certainly seems to collect his nicks and dings. He largely didn’t let that sideline him much in 2014, but injury risk is always a lingering concern with Julio. Regardless, he’s a great get at the tail end of the second.
>> Round 3 of the 2015 Fantasy Football Mock Draft Continues Next Week