This is my sixth year reviewing the July PPR Mock. With every
year of experience playing this game that we love, I learn more.
I learn new things; new concepts; new ideas. I learn some things
I didn’t even know were there to learn. But one thing that’s
remained constant over the years is the value and purpose of mock
drafts. I wrote the following two paragraphs back in 2015 as an
intro, but I doubt anyone will remember that. So here they are
again (with some 2020 addenda) to get your mind focused on the
information to come.
I once had a friend ask me what the point of a mock draft is.
Much of the excitement and enjoyment of a draft is eyeing that
player you want and actually being able to draft and root for
him all season. A mock is not real. You don’t actually own
any of those players. And it’s not like your actual drafts
will mimic your mock drafts. This attitude made me realize that
many people do not understand the underlying purpose of mocks
– to educate you.
This article is going to discuss one mock conducted in July, roughly
six weeks before the heart of draft season. A lot is going to change
between now and then. Player perception will change. Player value
will change. ADPs will rise and fall. Players will get injured.
Your actual draft will look much different than this mock that I
am about to discuss. So what’s the point of discussing it
at all? When reviewing this particular mock and reading this article,
remember to focus on the concepts; focus on the why, not the what,
or the who. Let’s get to it.
1. I noticed everyone understands the importance of drafting running
A little teaser for my annual late August draft strategy article
Ė it will be centered around robust RB. In the six years
Iíve analyzed the July PPR Mock, never have there been as
many as 10 first round running backs. This movement towards pounding
the position early has more to do with the state of the wide receiver
position. We know there is no asset more valuable in fantasy football
than the elite RB. We also know early round RBs are more likely
to bust than early round WRs.
With that being said, in order to win, you need an edge over
your competition and you donít get that edge by playing it safe.
The gap between RB1s and RB2/3s is significantly larger than the
gap between WR1s and WR2/3s.
Without overwhelming you with numbers, Iíll just highlight the
2019 disparity. The WR36 was 3.7 FPts/G worse than the WR12 while
the RB24 was 3.1 FPts/G worse than the RB12. Is Tyreek
Hill, who went at 2.01 in this mock, a better pick in a vacuum
than Nick Chubb
or Derrick Henry
or Aaron Jones?
Almost certainly. But that will be the case at almost every point
throughout a draft Ė the WR will be the better option. At some
point, you have to take an RB. The best time to do that is very
early in your draft.
2. I noticed this group was very bullish on bounceback seasons
from 2019 disappointments.
went 2.09, David
Johnson 3.04, JuJu
Smith-Schuster 3.06, Adam
Thielen 3.07, LeíVeon
Bell 3.09, and Melvin
Gordon 3.10. With the exception of JuJu, whose season was derailed
due to a combination of injuries and two of the worst quarterbacks
to ever throw passes in the NFL, these guys are all older veterans
that could continue to decline. I tend to side with the drafters
here in that Iím willing to roll the dice on these veterans, but
we need to acknowledge the risks here.
Gurley has a degenerative knee condition and commanded just an 8%
target share last season (16% in 2018 and 18% in 2017). DJ sustained
knee and back injuries that completely sapped his explosiveness.
Right now, we have no way of knowing if his athleticism has returned.
JuJu hasnít proven heís a true NFL WR1. 2019 was supposed
to be his chance, but there were mitigating circumstances, so we
just donít know right now. Thielen is 30 years old on a run
first offense coming off a season where he saw his target share
plummet to 17.8%. Bell is 28 years old with a lengthy injury history
playing on a bad offense with a bad offensive line for arguably
the worst coach in NFL history. He saw massive volume in 2019 and
couldnít do anything with it. Gordon is 27 years old with
a lengthy injury history joining a new team with a bad quarterback,
but a medley of talented offensive players around him and a backfield
mate that has posted back to back 1,000-yard seasons.
None of these facts mean to automatically avoid these players, but
these facts matter and must be considered in order to make an informed
3. I noticed the early RB run resulted in a mid-round WR run.
4. I noticed the massive gap between Lamar Jackson / Patrick Mahomes
and the rest of the quarterbacks.
Jackson and Mahomes both went in the latter part of the second
round. The next QB taken, Deshaun Watson, didnít come off
the board until the middle of the sixth round. What was more interesting
than Jackson and Mahomes going early was that no one really waited
to the late rounds on the position. From 6.05 to 9.01, nine QBs
were drafted. All but two teams had their starting QB by the start
of the ninth round. While I wouldnít go so far as to call
any of these picks bad (except one, which Iíll get to in the
next section), I do feel like a lot of teams passed up on value
in order to take a QB thatís not any better than one they
couldíve gotten in the double digit rounds.
5. I noticed the worst pick of the draft occurred in the seventh
At 7.03, shovelheadt selected Aaron Rodgers. This would be a candidate
for worst pick of the draft without considering anything other
than the decision to select the 36 year-old Rodgers, last yearís
QB14 who hasnít provided a relevant edge at the position
since 2016, in the seventh round. When you factor in that shovelheadt
already used his second round pick on Mahomes, it reaches unfathomably
bad levels. It is the equivalent of lighting the pick on fire.
He took Rodgers over a heap of productive players at other positions.
All for what? Unless Mahomes gets hurt or infected, Rodgers will,
in theory, start exactly one game for his fantasy team. To say
thatís not the best use of a seventh round pick is an understatement.
If you draft Mahomes or Jackson, or even Dak Prescott, Deshaun Watson, Kyler Murray, or Russell Wilson, you donít need
6. I noticed only one team went with a modified zero RB strategy.
While classic zero-RB entails taking wide receivers early and
taking your QB and TE before an RB, itís kind of a defunct
strategy at this point. Modern zero-RB is essentially just waiting
until the fourth or fifth round before taking your first running
back like Matt Mueller did. While Michael Thomas, Kenny Golladay,
and DK Metcalf comprise a stellar WR corps, especially when you
add in Lamar Jackson, the running backs just canít compete.
He will be starting Mark Ingram and one of Ronald Jones, Damien Williams, Tevin Coleman, or Boston Scott. His RB1 is 30 years old
with a supremely talented second round rookie waiting to take his
job. His other four RBs have floors so low that it wouldnít
be surprising if all four of them were on waiver wires by mid-season.
7. I noticed the Cowboys, Chiefs, and Bucs had nine players drafted,
tied for the most from any NFL team.
Lumping the Cowboys in this group is suspect, because for reasons
I cannot begin to understand, there were two Cowboys kickers drafted.
It is not surprising that the Chiefs, the leagueís best offense,
are a popular choice for fantasy drafters. The Bucs are interesting
because they show how much difference a year can make. In last yearís
mock, there were just five Bucs drafted. Jameis
Winston was replaced by Tom
Brady and in addition to last seasonís returnees, Mike
Jones, and O.J.
Howard, this mock saw Rob
Vaughn, Matt Gay,
and the defense drafted. It is clear that drafters are more confident
in the Bucs team due largely to the addition of Brady.
8. No one is really interested in rookie wide receivers.
The first rookie WR taken was CeeDee Lamb at 9.06. The next rookie
WR off the board was Justin Jefferson at 10.10. Five more rookie
WRs were taken from the 12th Ė 16th rounds. The pandemic is
definitely playing a role in fantasy managers doubting the ability
of rookie WRs to make an immediate impact. In normal seasons, first
round picks like Henry Ruggs III and Jalen Reagor who are well positioned
to earn significant targets throughout the season are typically
drafted much sooner.
This does mark back-to-back July mocks where there was minimal interest
in rookie receivers. NíKeal
Harry was the first rookie WR taken in 2019 at 10.09, over a
round later than where Lamb went this season, and the 2020 WR class
is considered the best since 2014. I like the long term upside of
many of these rookies, but I share in the concern over their effectiveness
9. Four rookie running backs were drafted to be fantasy starters.
Edwards-Helaire went 3.02, well ahead of Jonathan
Taylor at 4.11. I would be thrilled to get Taylor at 4.11 as
I see him overtaking Marlon
Mack very quickly. I am not as concerned about the lack of camp
and preseason for running backs as I am for the receivers. Late
fifth round, DíAndre
Swift and Cam
Akers went back-to-back. After that, J.K.
Dobbins and KeíShawn
Vaughn donít come off the board until 8.07 and 8.12. In total,
there were a whopping 12 rookie running backs selected.
While only CEH, Taylor, Swift, and Akers are certain to have fantasy
value, the remaining eight backs all have plausible upside. This
is a unique season where a plethora of rookie RBs are taken and
itís actually good process. Even more intriguing is the fact that
Evans is a pure handcuff with no chance of being useful without
an injury to the starter. Dobbins, Vaughn, Zack
Gibson, AJ Dillon,
McFarland Jr., and Joshua
Kelley could all feasibly find their way into relevance by either
playing their way into a rotational role or stealing the starterís
10. I noticed the draft position of these 4 players…
4.10 Ė RB Devin Singletary, CHI:
I felt like this was a bit high for Singletary. I was not a fan
of Singletary coming out of college but he produced well as a rookie
in a backfield devoid of all talent. His biggest competition was
89 year-old Frank Gore. I wanted to like Singletary more this season,
but itís very difficult to do so. His athletic profile is
putrid. He has 15th percentile speed, 46th percentile burst, and
18th percentile agility. Heís not a zero in the passing game,
but at just 3.5 targets per game, heís not an asset either.
The Bills added Stefon Diggs, who will command at least a 20% target
share and, more importantly, the team watched what Singletary did
as a rookie and still spent a third round pick on Zack Moss. Singletary
only scored four touchdowns last season and only had one goal line
carry. If your initial thought is there is room for improvement,
youíre not wrong, but the evidence doesnít point to
those numbers increasing. Sean McDermott has already talked about
using Moss in the Frank Gore role. Gore had 11 goal line carries
last season, eighth most in the league. Moss is going to be the
goal line back on an offense that already has Josh Allen stealing
rushing touchdowns. Taking Singletary over Jonathan Taylor, who
went the very next pick, is just straight lunacy. 5.09 Ė WR T.Y. Hilton, IND: I am not
a fan of taking old players. In my old age, Iíve learned that
30 isnít the age of decline - itís more like 32/33.
Hilton will be 31 years old this season and has shown no signs
of slowing down. Hilton was taken by worm as the WR24. That seems
awfully late for a guy that was the overall WR5 at 18.1 FPts/G through
the first seven weeks of 2019. Philip Rivers is washed, but heís
not worse than Jacoby Brissett. Hilton is the undisputed alpha receiving
option for the Colts and they have one of the best offensive lines
in the NFL, which will give the old and immobile Rivers time to
find Hilton. The injuries are a concern, especially for a speedster,
but the upside of Hilton in the fourth round, let alone the fifth
10.02 Ė RB Sony Michel, NE: Now
this is something I just love to see. In the past, drafters often
relented and pulled the trigger on talentless two-down plodders
in the mid-single digit rounds just because of the perceived workload.
In 2018, Alex Collins went 3.07 and Jay Ajayi went 4.11. 2016 was
the height of this issue with C.J. Anderson, Ameer Abdullah, Mike Gillislee, Rob Kelley, and Adrian Peterson all going in the fifth
and sixth rounds. Credit to everyone in the 2020 July mock for allowing
Sony Michel to make it all the way to 10.02. Michel is coming off
a season where every favorable condition you could want for a running
back was present and he couldnít even average 10 FPts/G. Michel
is a spectacularly bad football player that has no business being
on an NFL roster. I believe 10.02 is not only fair, but the highest
he will be drafted for the rest of his career. 13.11 Ė WR Allen Lazard, GB: I donít
necessarily love Lazard. I wouldnít call myself an Allen Lazard
enthusiast. But the end of the 13th round is tremendous value given
the upside. Lazard is the WR2 in Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers is a far
cry from the unstoppable force he used to be, but he is still going
to throw the ball at least 550 times and Davante Adams is not actually
getting 200 targets. There legitimately is no other pass catcher
of consequence. The Packers donít have a relevant tight end
and they donít have a satellite back (Aaron Jones is a running
back who catches passes, not a pass catching running back). Lazard
is 24 years old and has upper percentile speed and burst. He was
taken as the WR56 in a draft that saw 63 WRs drafted. When I look
at the names ahead of him, thereís nothing egregious about
them going before Lazard. This is more about the upside Lazard possesses
and the zero cost it takes to acquire. Great pick.
On a final note, remember that every mock is different. Take a
look at the June mock compared to this one and you’ll see
how very different they are. You can and should try different
strategies and approaches. See what works and what does not. See
what you like and what you do not like. Even if you disagree with
everything I’ve written, you can still learn from it. I
hope reading this article helps you as much as writing it helped