With the NFL draft and the rookie minicamps in the rear view, fantasy football analysts are already holding some early mock drafts. And they're overreacting to one of last year's biggest indiscretions.
Experts are jumping the gun on the Rams' rookie running back Zac Stacy, who was selected in the fifth round -- 160th overall -- last month, thinking he's going to be the next Alfred Morris. The projected starting running back wound up being the biggest take away from the four early mock drafts conducted this week. Analysts like the Vanderbilt record-holder Stacy as the leader right now, drafting him on average at 90th overall (roughly an eighth-round fantasy pick).
Stacy could create a mess this preseason, akin to the one we had with the Washington Redskins last year. We all remember how Morris went on to a huge fantasy season after so many owners wasted picks on returning sophomore incumbents Roy Helu and Evan Royster. Heck, even journeyman Tim Hightower, struggling to come back from ACL surgery, was picked in there before Morris in some drafts.
Keep in mind that all four of the mock drafts were conducted on MockDraftCentral.com, whose default rankings slotted Stacy as the Rams' projected starter. There are myriad problems with the logic there. The Rams allowed the veteran Jackson go and didn't pursue a veteran in free agency, much less off the scrap heap. If they didn't feel confident in what they had with Daryl Richardson or Isaiah Pead, don't you think they would have pursued a veteran or used one of their first six -- six! -- draft picks on their projected starting running back? A team should not wait until the last pick of the draft to fill one of the most important positions on your team, unless a team has confidence in their current players.
Remember, the only reason Morris wound up starting for coach Mike Shanahan on Week 1, en route to 1,606 yards and 13 TDs as a rookie, was because neither Helu (toe) nor Royster (knee) could prove healthy in training camp. Even the Redskins' publicized depth chart leading up to Game 1 in early September had Royster ahead of Helu and Morris. But we digress...
"[Stacy] was one of probably the last guys on our board that we were really jacked about," GM Les Snead told the Rams' official site. "We had been managing that running back board a little bit and he was a guy we liked for awhile, and it went from deep to thin pretty quickly, so we went and nabbed him."
It sounds like the Rams were searching for a running back to create depth, not necessarily a projected starter. Also, they picked him because the board got thin. If they really like him to start, would that really be a part of their explanation for selecting him?
"Zac is a very explosive runner," coach Jeff Fisher told the Rams' official site. "He's an outstanding young man, smart, good out of the backfield, pass protector; he's a complete back. He's a strong inside, kind of power runner that kind of gives us a change of pace. You can't have too many of these guys."
Yes, Stacy has potential as a pounding workhorse to complement the speedier Pead and Richardson. He might even have a chance to earn the short-yardage job and vulture touchdowns if he doesn't start, but the early drafts show the analysts are overreacting to him right now. Until the Rams announce some semblance of a depth chart, you have to figure the initial starter will be the one that lead the charge behind Jackson last year. That would be Richardson. That will be one of the more interesting developments to watch in the Rams' OTA: Who runs with the first unit?
As far as the other interesting developments, lets take a look at the average draft positions I compiled from the four fantasy mock drafts in which I participated this week:
Composite rookie rankings
1. RB Montee Ball, DEN -- No. 37 overall2. RB Le'Veon Bell, PIT -- No. 57 overall3. RB Eddie Lacy, GB -- No. 73 overall4. RB Zac Stacy, STL -- No. 90 overall5. WR Tavon Austin, STL -- No. 94 overall6. RB Giovani Bernard, CIN -- No. 116 overall7. WR Aaron Dobson, NE -- No. 142 overall8. WR Cordarrelle Patterson, MIN -- No. 152 overall9. WR DeAndre Hopkins, HOU -- No. 154 overall10. WR Keenan Allen, SD -- No. 192 overall11. TE Tyler Eifert, CIN -- No. 196 overall12. K Caleb Sturgis, MIA -- No. 205 overall13. WR Terrance Williams, DAL -- No. 206 overall14. K Dustin Hopkins, BUF -- No. 210 overall15. RB Denard Robinson, JAC -- No. 229 overall
This is the first crack at these rookies in fantasy, so keep in mind there will be plenty changing after OTAs and training camps, but here are some early notes:
? The Broncos' Montee Ball was the unanimous first rookie off the board in all four of the mock drafts. His average draft position slots him as an early fourth-round pick in a standard draft, but that could rise once it is apparent he will be the Broncos' feature back. The Steelers' Le'Veon Bell was the second choice, roughly a fifth-round pick on average, but one draft saw the Packers' Eddie Lacy go two picks ahead of him. All three figure to compete to start for their respective teams, and Ball and Bell have much higher ceilings in their offenses.
? Tavon Austin was unanimously the first receiver selected, but he was also the only wide receiver selected in each of the four drafts. The Patriots' second-round pick Aaron Dobson's average draft position slotted him as the second wide receiver, but he was only picked in one draft.
? There was no rookie quarterback selected in any of the drafts. Bills first-rounder E.J. Manuel is the only one that might start.
? Neither rookie kicker should have been picked, especially since they still have to beat out veterans.
New faces in new places
? RB Steven Jackson, Atlanta Falcons -- On average, Jackson went in the middle of the second rounds, which is a bit on the high side for a running back who will be 30 this season (however, keep in mind one analyst picked ninth overall, pulling up that number). No matter how much the potential of the Falcons offense gives Jackson, a 30-year-old running back is on his last legs. Like a 30-year-old Michael Turner before him, Jackson is best served as a third-round pick in fantasy. Jackson will be better than Turner was last season, but the age caution should trump the excitement of the move to Atlanta.
? WR Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals -- Fitzgerald didn't go anywhere, but he's joined in Arizona by 4,000-yard passer Carson Palmer and new offensive guru Bruce Arians, who should give him new opportunities. Fitzgerald went 27th on average (roughly a third-round pick).
? WR Percy Harvin, Seattle Seahawks -- He slots as the 14th-best receiver, roughly in the middle of the fourth round. He could finally break through with Russell Wilson in Seattle.
? WR Wes Welker, Denver Broncos -- These drafts were all non-PRR, so seeing Welker go one pick behind Harvin on average was reasonable. He was roughly three picks ahead of Eric Decker and 21 picks behind Demaryius Thomas. Agreed on both.
? RB Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions -- The Lions said Bush is a candidate to catch 90 passes out of the backfield from Matthew Stafford. That is a bit optimistic, but Bush is just outside of the top 50 on average. In PPR leagues, he could be worth a third-round pick. Regardless, he should go ahead of Darren Sproles.
? WR Greg Jennings, Minnesota Vikings -- He is old and injury-prone, and moving from one of the best, most pass-happy offenses in the NFL to arguably the worst. He was roughly a middle fifth-rounder, but quite frankly, he shouldn't be considered a fantasy starter at all.
? WR Mike Wallace, Miami Dolpins -- Joe Philbin's and Ryan Tannehill's new weapon went 58th overall on average. This is a very reasonable spot for him. He is much more intriguing than Jennings, at least.
? WR Danny Amendola, New England Patriots -- Despite his brittle history, he also warrants being picked well ahead of Jennings. Tom Brady can make Amendola a fantasy starter like he did with Wes Welker. The early going rate on that potential breakout is a fifth-round pick.
? RB Rashard Mendenhall, Arizona Cardinals -- Unlike the Rams, the Cardinals know who will head their running back committee. He is a late sixth-rounder on average below, on spot ahead of the Packers' Lacy, coincidentally.
? RB Chris Ivory, New York Jets -- He will easily benefit from his change of scenery, because he projects to be the Jets' starter in a run-heavy offense. If we had any confidence in the Jets' woeful quarterback situation, we would be inclined to pull Ivory up. For now, he rounds out the top 75 (roughly Round 6). He could emerge as a third-rounder by the end of training camp.
? TE Dustin Keller, Miami Dolphins -- He was only picked in one of the four drafts (110th overall), while Antonio Gates surprisingly went undrafted in one draft. Keller shouldn't be considered a fantasy starter in drafts.
? WR Anquan Boldin, San Francisco 49ers -- Acquired to grow Colin Kaepernick like he did Joe Flacco, Boldin was a bit of a reach by the analysts drafts. He goes from being a No. 1 receiver to Michael Crabtree's sidekick, working with a quarterback who still hasn't played a full season. (What happens if Kaepernick gets lit up by a linebacker while scrambling, who do the 49ers turn to? Colt McCoy!)
Mock draft ADP review
Here are the composite average draft positions compiled from four mocks: