Friday September 4th, 2015

If you haven’t had your fantasy football draft yet, congratulations: You were smart to hold off this long. The annual wave of injuries that annually dampens preseason vibes and ruins the best-laid fantasy draft plans has (hopefully) come and gone. We even know that Tom Brady will be playing the entire season (though, this mock draft was conducted before Brady's suspension was nullified).

Fantasy
Bold predictions: Hill will top Murray and McCoy, Eifert will excel, more

There’s a downside to waiting this long, though: if you’re a daily browser of online sports publications, you’re getting a constant swarm of fantasy advice from different sources that inevitably contradict each other. Looking for deep sleepers and late-round players to stash can be exhausting. With the information overload, it can be hard to miss the forest for the trees.

That’s why doing an abbreviated mock draft can be extremely beneficial. You get to test out different strategies for forming the core of your roster—the guys who will make or break your season.

To help you do that, the writers of PointAfter are here to guide you through a standard 12-team draft. Each of us (Will Laws, Ben Leibowitz, Nick Selbe) are responsible for four teams, and we each tried to vary our strategies, within reason. Hopefully you can learn a little bit from our mistakes and mild successes.

We mentioned this earlier, but again, a reminder: This mock draft was conducted before Tom Brady's four-game suspension was nullified.

• Prep for your 2015 fantasy draft with all of SI.com's coverage in one place

Round 1

Owner PLAYER POSITION TEAM
Leibowitz 1 Jamaal Charles RB KC
Laws 1 Eddie Lacy RB GB
Selbe 1 Adrian Peterson RB MIN
Leibowitz 2 Le'Veon Bell RB PIT
Laws 2 Marshawn Lynch RB SEA
Selbe 2 Antonio Brown WR PIT
Leibowitz 3 Julio Jones WR ATL
Laws 3 Matt Forte RB CHI
Selbe 3 DeMarco Murray RB DAL
Leibowitz 4 Dez Bryant WR DAL
Laws 4 Calvin Johnson WR DET
Selbe 4 C.J. Anderson RB DEN

Selbe: Clearly this group thinks Le’Veon Bell’s two-game suspension is slightly concerning. If Team Leibowitz 2 could tread water in Weeks 1 and 2, he’d be feeling pretty great about getting Bell with the No. 4 pick.

Laws: Yeah, I would not have picked Lacy at No. 2 two weeks ago. But with Jordy Nelson out, I think the Packers will shift toward the running game a little more this year—especially in the red zone where teams will certainly double-team Randall Cobb. Also, I just want the closest I can get to a sure thing at the No. 2 pick. That means I’d rather not pick someone who only played in one game last year (Peterson) or who’ll be suspended for the first two games of the season (Bell).

Leibowitz: Julio Jones undoubtedly has more value in points per reception (PPR) leagues, but nabbing him at No. 7 is still easily defensible for one key reason: Kyle Shanahan. As Mike Braude broke down in this article for RotoViz, Shanahan’s offenses have historically rewarded No. 1 receivers in a big way. Jones is the best go-to guy Shanahan has coached in a while, so expect him to target the Alabama product early and often this season. 

Round 2

OWNER PLAYER POSITION TEAM
Selbe 4 Demaryius Thomas WR CHI
Laws 4 LeSean McCoy RB PHI
Leibowitz 4 Andrew Luck QB IND
Selbe 3 Odell Beckham Jr.  WR NYG
Laws 3 Rob Gronkowski TE NE
Leibowitz 3 Justin Forsett RB BAL
Selbe 2 Aaron Rodgers QB GB
Laws 2 Randall Cobb WR GB
Leibowitz 2 Jeremy Hill RB CIN
Selbe 1 A.J. Green WR CIN
Laws 1 Brandin Cooks WR NO
Leibowitz 1 T.Y. Hilton WR IND

Laws: We conducted this draft before the Deflategate decision was announced Thursday morning. If I could have a do-over, I’d take Gronkowski with Laws 4 in the first round. While we think it’s important to grab a surefire backfield bellcow early on this year due to a lack of clarity in several backfields across the league, the difference between Gronkowski and the next-best tight end is too large to ignore.

 Fantasy football top 300 | POSITION PRIMERS: QB | RB | WR | TE | K | D/ST

Selbe: In a vacuum, taking Aaron Rodgers or Andrew Luck in the second round isn’t bad. They’re two of the best quarterbacks in the league, the only ones at their position that you can justify drafting this high. What makes this a bad move is that both Selbe 2 and Leibowitz 4 have gone two rounds without taking a running back. This will prove costly later when you see who they’ll have to depend on.

Leibowitz: Jeremy Hill is a borderline first-round pick in Yahoo leagues, where his ADP is No. 13. I’m not as high on him. He could end up being the Zac Stacy of 2015—a guy who broke out as a rookie, only to suffer a sophomore slump and be supplanted in the pecking order. Giovani Bernard will, at the very least, provide Hill some very strong competition in Cincinnati. 

Round 3

OWNER PLAYER POSITION TEAM
Leibowitz 1 Jordan Matthews WR PHI
Laws 1 Alfred Morris RB WAS
Selbe 1 Mike Evans WR TB
Leibowitz 2 DeAndre Hopkins WR HOU
Laws 2 Lamar Miller RB MIA
Selbe 2 Melvin Gordon WR SD
Leibowitz 3 Carlos Hyde RB SF
Laws 3 Emmanuel Sanders WR DEN
Selbe 3 Jimmy Graham TE SEA
Leibowitz 4 Frank Gore RB IND
Laws 4 Darren McFadden RB DAL
Selbe 4 Russell Wilson QB SEA

Selbe: Ladies and gentlemen, we have the first reach of the draft—Jordan Matthews. He’s being picked at No. 37 on average in Yahoo! drafts, and Leibowitz decided to take him at No. 25. That’s putting a lot of faith in Chip Kelly’s offense succeeding regardless of who lines up at quarterback.

Leibowitz: My colleagues laughed up the room when I picked Jordan Matthews to open the third round. Perhaps they’re in the right to be skeptical. But consider that Matthews finished with 872 receiving yards and eight touchdowns as a rookie last season. He’ll now assume the No. 1 wideout role from Kansas-City-bound Jeremy Maclin. He has to avoid a sophomore slump, but Matthews is a breakout fantasy candidate in the high-powered Philadelphia offense under Chip Kelly.

Laws: I’d like to point out that every single wide receiver we took in this round has a lower ADP in Yahoo! drafts than Alshon Jeffery, who is still on the board. We were all a bit scared away by Chicago Bears coach John Fox being “terse and non-specific” on Tuesday when asked about Jeffery’s calf issue.

Another note: When we did this draft on Tuesday night, reports were surfacing that McFadden would emerge as the starting tailback in Dallas. I might have been a bit eager in leaping for McFadden, as that situation still seems to be a bit murky. But one things is clear: Dallas’ offensive line is in a class by itself, and if someone emerges as the clear No. 1 option, the lucky winner will be a must-start.

Round 4

OWNER PLAYER POSITION TEAM
Selbe 4 Golden Tate WR DET
Laws 4 Jonathan Stewart RB CAR
Leibowitz 4 Mark Ingram RB NO
Selbe 3 Latavius Murray  RB OAK
Laws 3 Alshon Jeffery WR CHI
Leibowitz 3 Andre Johnson WR IND
Selbe 2 Keenan Allen WR SD
Laws 2 Peyton Manning QB DEN
Leibowitz 2 Drew Brees QB NO
Selbe 1 Chris Ivory RB NYJ
Laws 1 DeSean Jackson WR WAS
Leibowitz 1 Rashad Jennings RB NYG

Laws: Chris Ivory is being way undervalued, both here and by the conventional experts. ESPN currently has him ranked as the No. 26 RB, below Arian Foster, who could miss half the season. This, for a guy who had to share carries with Chris Johnson last season but still finished as the No. 19 RB. He’s now “the unquestioned starter” in New York, especially with Stevan Ridley currently on the PUP list, and would provide great value in Round 4.

Leibowitz: I’m not convinced Jonathan Stewart can be a reliable fantasy guy (we agree that Chris Ivory went too low, so perhaps he should have been the pick at No. 38). Even with DeAngelo Williams’s departure and question marks in the passing game following Kelvin Benjamin’s season-ending ACL tear, Stewart has his fair share of red flags. He’s been injury-prone—missing 20 games over the past three seasons—has scored just four rushing touchdowns in that span and doesn’t move the needle much when catching passes out of the backfield.

Laws: Maybe I’m crazy for thinking Stewart could stay healthy. But I think he’ll benefit from getting a lot of touches in Carolina now that the Panthers could very well start Ted Ginn Jr. and Corey Brown at wideout in Week 1, with Kelvin Benjamin (torn ACL) and Devin Funchess (hamstring) sidelined.

You could argue I should have taken Ivory with WL3 instead of Alshon Jeffery (or Stewart). But I had enough of Jeffery’s free fall in this draft. From years of living in North Carolina during the Fox-era Panthers, I can attest that his default setting when it comes to the injury report is “terse and non-specific.” Even if Jeffery misses a week or two, he’ll eventually resume his role as Jay Cutler’s favorite target in an offense that will likely be playing from behind quite a bit.

Round 5

OWNER PLAYER POSITION TEAM
Leibowitz 1 Tony Romo QB DAL
Laws 1 Todd Gurley RB STL
Selbe 1 Ben Roethlisberger QB PIT
Leibowitz 2 Devante Adams WR GB
Laws 2 Nelson Agholor WR PHI
Selbe 2 Doug Martin RB TB
Leibowitz 3 Julian Edelman WR NE
Laws 3 Andre Ellington RB ARI
Selbe 3 Sammy Watkins WR BUF
Leibowitz 4 Mike Wallace WR MIN
Laws 4 Jeremy Maclin WR KC
Selbe 4 Joique Bell RB DET

Selbe: I know Alex Smith isn’t exactly a gunslinger, and we are all aware that no Chiefs wide receiver has scored a receiving touchdown since the Nixon administration, but isn’t the late fifth round a bit low for Jeremy Maclin? He showed what he can do when healthy, and it’s not as if he had the best quarterbacks in the league throwing his way in Philadelphia last season. Maclin had 143 targets last season, and Dwayne Bowe led the Chiefs in 2014 with 96. Expect Maclin to lead Kansas City in targets next year with a number that’s closer to 143 than it is to 96 (related—avoid Bowe at all costs).

Laws: Totally with you on Maclin. After taking leaps of faith on Jonathan Stewart and Darren McFadden near the bottom of the snake in Rounds 3–4 with Laws 4, I’m glad Maclin was still around to give me a legit WR2 on that team.

I’m going to go on the record as strongly disagreeing with Leibowitz 2’s selection of Devante Adams over Maclin and every other wide receiver taken in this round. Sure, someone has to step up to fill the vacuum left by Nelson, but I’m thinking that will be Lacy or tight end Richard Rodgers more so than Adams. The four WRs taken in the last six picks of this round are surer bets.

Leibowitz: I only need three letters to defend the Devante Adams pick: MVP. With Aaron Rodgers calling the shots, Adams is in perfect position to succeed in Green Bay (especially if opponents opt to double team Randall Cobb and force the ball elsewhere). Cobb was a big-time fantasy performer as the No. 2 guy last season and James Jones caught 14 touchdowns in 2012 as second fiddle. I’d rather have Rodgers’ No. 2 guy over Alex Smith or Tyrod Taylor’s No. 1. Sometimes you just have to put your faith in the quarterback to make guys look good.

Round 6

OWNER PLAYER POSITION TEAM
Selbe 4 Amari Cooper WR OAK
Laws 4 Greg Olsen TE CAR
Leibowitz 4 Travis Kelce TE KC
Selbe 3 T.J. Yeldon RB JAX
Laws 3 LaGarrette Blount RB NE
Leibowitz 3 Matt Ryan QB ATL
Selbe 2 Giovani Bernard RB CIN
Laws 2 Jarvis Landry WR MIA
Leibowitz 2 C.J. Spiller RB NO
Selbe 1 Brandon Marshall WR NYJ
Laws 1 Steve Smith Sr. WR BAL
Leibowitz 1 Allen Robinson WR JAX

Selbe: Steve Smith Sr. saw 133 targets last season, 14th-most in the league, and he made the most of them. He was a top-20 fantasy receiver and should only get more passes thrown his way with the departure of Torrey Smith, especially considering how inexperienced the other wideouts on the Ravens’ roster are. He’s a steal at the end of the sixth round.

Leibowitz: Greg Olsen provides great value in Round 6, even though that might be considered a bit early for a tight end not named Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham. But the truth is, Olsen was the only 1,000-yard tight end besides Gronk last year. If you don’t want to use an early pick on the consensus top two TEs, you’d be wise to snatch Olsen in the middle rounds—considering the dearth of healthy skill players in Carolina, Newton will likely be targeting him a lot.

Laws: Remember when we said Teams Selbe 2 and Leibowitz 4 would regret not taking a tailback in the first two rounds? Well, look who they ended up with.

Selbe 2 has Melvin Gordon (the worst projected RB1 of this draft, according to NFL.com), Doug Martin and Giovani Bernard. That’s a rookie, a player who’s totaled three touchdowns and less than 1,000 yards between 2013-14, and a second-stringer on his own team. Leibowitz 4 has Frank Gore and Mark Ingram, which isn’t a bad starting point. But the best remaining backs on the board for the later rounds are the injured Arian Foster and Isaiah Crowell—and there’s still nine picks to go before his next choice. If Gore or Ingram either get injured or underachieve, which is certainly possible, he would be in trouble.

Best Team: Selbe 1

Picks: Adrian Peterson, A.J. Green, Mike Evans, Chris Ivory, Ben Roethlisberger, Brandon Marshall (1196.9 projected points by NFL.com)

Laws: Who would have thought that a team with two Jets in its first six picks could look so good? This team certainly makes a case for selecting two running backs and wide receivers in the first four rounds, then waiting to worry about your quarterbacks and tight ends later.

Selbe 1 didn’t actually have the most projected points by NFL.com—that would be Leibowitz 2, with 1,222.2 points. But we chose Selbe 1 as the best team since Chris Ivory (133.3 points) and Brandon Marshall (129 points) are almost certainly being underrated.

Also, with the roster balance on this team, Selbe is set up to take a high-payoff risk in Round 7. How does Arian Foster sound? Once he returns from his groin injury around the middle of fantasy season, this team would be a juggernaut. If Selbe wanted to leap for a more immediate contributor, he could fill his tight end spot with Martellus Bennett, Jason Witten or Zach Ertz within the next couple rounds, too.

Worst Team: Laws 4

Picks: Calvin Johnson, LeSean McCoy, Darren McFadden, Jonathan Stewart, Jeremy Maclin, Greg Olsen (964.3 projected points by NFL.com)

Laws: Laws 4 had a disadvantage by the NFL.com projection systems since it didn’t have a quarterback. But I might have deserved this moniker anyway, given my unwavering trust in Megatron and my reach for McFadden, who is projected by NFL.com to record just 99.2 fantasy points this year, the lowest amount of any player in this draft.

I think that projection is pessimistic, though. There’s no way Jerry Jones, a longtime fan of McFadden, will let Jason Garrett stick with a running back committee if the former Arkansas star shines behind Dallas’ offensive line. There is a lesson to be learned here, though: it’s probably not a good idea to pick a tailback who’s playing for a new team in 2015 and missed his chance to claim the starting job in training camp due to injuries.

Best Value Pick: Lamar Miller

Laws: SI.com’s No. 14 RB at No. 29 overall? Yes, please. We unanimously agreed Miller was the best value pick of our draft, and there’s a good chance he will be in yours, too. His ADP in Yahoo! drafts is currently No. 40.

The former fourth-round pick had the quietest 1,000-yard campaign in the league last year while averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Even if you snap him up in the early-to-mid 20s, there’s a good chance he’ll justify his draft slot.

Biggest Reach: Jordan Matthews

Laws: Selbe and I overruled Leibowitz on this one. Matthews has stiff competition for targets in Riley Cooper, Zach Ertz and rookie Nelson Agholor, whom Kelly is especially a big fan of. Agholor had the breakout game of his college career against Kelly’s last Oregon team back in 2012, catching six passes for 162 yards and a touchdown, his first collegiate score and first game with over 100 yards.

If Kelly and Sam Bradford fall in love with the more talented Agholor, there’s a decent chance Matthews won’t be able to reach 1,000 receiving yards. I wouldn’t consider drafting him in standard 12-team leagues until late in the fourth round, at the earliest.

Biggest Slider: Alshon “Terse & Unspecific” Jeffery

Laws: Alshon Jeffery’s ADP in Yahoo! drafts is No. 23. He fell all the way to No. 41 in this draft. I guess we really let John Fox’s post-practice interview demeanor get in our heads.

There is a shred of logic to this, though. With Kevin White out for the season and Brandon Marshall in New York, are we sure Jeffery is ready to emerge as a WR1, both in terms of receiving plentiful double teams on the field and as a consistent option in fantasy?

More from Will Laws:

• ​Power Ranking All 32 Starting QBs Heading Into the 2015 Season

• ​Projecting the 2015-16 NBA Standings via Win Shares

• ​Heisman Watch: Preseason Top 25

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