With the 2016 NFL Draft completed and teams about to begin rookie mini camps, the most exciting part of the offseason is behind us. Now that all the speculation is over as far as who will go where, we can get set for the next wave of fantasy football drafts. While we’re all excited about every rookie, let’s look at which ones are worthy of attention come draft time. For this analysis I’ll be focusing on rookie performances over the past five seasons and which rookies can potentially be relevant in 12-team leagues this year.
Now that most key free agents have been signed and the draft is complete, we have a few months to overreact to offseason developments before training camp begins and ACLs start to tear.
In keeping with that spirit, let’s take a look at the AFC South teams, each of which has legitimate reason to hope for an improvement of 3+ wins in 2016:
A happy event for fans, rookies and most teams, the NFL Draft is far more stressful for many of the league’s veterans. We always hear about “winners” and “losers” from a team perspective, but the only clear losers at this point are the players that now face tougher paths to earning roles and/or roster spots.
After the months and months of hype leading up to this year’s draft, all the cards have turned in and it’s time to start looking ahead to what this crop of rookies is going to bring to the table. Day 3 is always a whirlwind and this year’s late rounds were no exception.
With only eight skill position players coming off the board in Round 1, there was plenty of fantasy-relevant talent available in Rounds 2 and 3 on Friday. While 14 total skill position players came off the board Friday night, several of the names called surprised fans and draft analysts alike, such as the Jets selecting Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg with the 51st overall selection.
Nothing like last minute, huh?
In the spirit of Draft Day – my favorite religious holiday – I couldn’t resist taking a quick dip in the mock draft pool. After all, it’s been far too long since my last one following Seattle’s Super Bowl beatdown of Denver. That’s right, I somehow skipped an entire year. And lucky for the NFL that all-too-early February mock in 2014 wasn’t the work of Nostradamus – I had Odell Beckham going to the Seahawks to cap the first round. Boy would that have been disheartening as a Packers fan for the bulk of the next decade.
No sooner had I done what I thought was going to be my final mock draft of the offseason for the Cowboys last week, two things happened. One, the Eagles traded up with the Browns to grab the second overall pick, thus basically ensuring that Jared Goff and Carson Wentz would be the first two picks off the board. Two, DeMarcus Lawrence went and got suspended for four games, joining Randy Gregory on the sidelines for the first month of 2016 and leaving Dallas comically thin at DE.
So, on the eve of the draft itself, I figure I’d better crank out one more mock using Fanspeak’s On the Clock simulator. Doing mock drafts may be an exercise in futility when it comes to actually predicting who will go in any particular draft slot, but it’s a great way to force yourself to become familiar with the draft class beyond the obvious big names.
The Cowboys are one of the teams who lean heavily on SPARQ scores to differentiate prospects, an approach pioneered by the Seahawks, so the players likely to be on the team’s radar are not necessarily the ones the pundits expect, and later-round surprises are almost a certainty.
I’m using Fanspeak’s own default big board again, after sticking with it on the first two mocks, the Drafttek board for mock 3.0 and CBS for 4.0, as it was updated yesterday. Version 1.0 saw Dallas pop for Carson Wentz with the fourth overall pick, while in version 2.0 they traded down with the Rams and nabbed Andrew Billings. Version 3.0 led with Jalen Ramsey, the player most likely to be at the top of the Cowboys’ actual draft board, while in version 4.0 they missed on Ramsey and settled for Vernon Hargreaves instead.