NFL Draft Strategy: Mock Draft Recap 1

  • Settings: PPR, One QB

    View the whole draft board here.

    If you missed it while it was happening, make sure to check out Shane’s pick-by-pick analysis: 

    In SportsEthos’ first mock fantasy football mock draft of the year, there are plenty of takeaways to keep an eye on as we inch closer to draft season at the end of the summer. Draft values will differ quite a bit from now, but digging into the early trends will help fantasy owners stay ahead of the pack when it comes to draft prep.

    The Late-Round QB strategy created by stud fantasy analyst JJ Zachariason is becoming a thing of the past. QBs are creeping up draft boards. The top three of Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, and Jalen Hurts deserve their draft capital due to the major edge they provide team owners over the rest of the field. However, with those three rising, the ones below tend to creep forward as well. There were eight QBs taken in the first six rounds of this draft. With that said, quality starting options were available in rounds 12 & 13.  If these trends continue, I recommend getting a top-3 (or 4 depending on how you feel about Lamar Jackson) or waiting till later rounds to target  Daniel Jones, Anthony Richardson, Jared Goff, or Geno Smith.

    Time will tell if it’s just this single mock draft, but RBs seemed to have dropped more than in previous years. In previous seasons there could be 10 RBs drafted in round 1, but in this mock, only six went round 1 including only two in the top six picks. I expect those types of numbers for leagues that have starting slots of 2 RBs, 3 WRs, and 1-2 FLEXs because there are more WRs that need to be started. In leagues with two RBs and two WRs in the starting lineup, RBs become more valuable due to the scarcity of reliable workloads. Way more teams have two reliable WRs in fantasy than two reliable RBs.

    Without further ado, here’s some quick round-by-round analysis as well as an initial analysis of each team.

    Round-by-Round Analysis

    Round 1

    WRs are finally making their way into Round 1 more. In previous years one would expect 8-10 RBs selected in round 1 but this mock had just six. It was a bit surprising that three out of the top four picks were WRs.  It is difficult to argue against Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, and Cooper Kupp there, but in a league where we need two RBs, two WRs, and two FLEX starting spots, it will be harder to find starter-level RBs than starter-level WRs. Saquon Barkley making it to pick 12 was a surprise. He’s in for a big workload again and another year healthy from his injuries. Bijan Robinson as the 3rd RB off the board was not expected. He will be fed the ball, but seems risky over Barkley, Jonathan Taylor and Josh Jacobs who have proven it already and are also expected to have large workloads.

    Round 2

    Lots of teams will be happy with their selections here. Patrick Mahomes going 2.7 seemed rich, but it also completed a Chiefs stack with Travis Kelce which makes it easier to argue. Both Raiders players Davante Adams (2.3) and Josh Jacobs (2.8) are great values at their draft positions. They provide safe floors with their heavy workloads and the team owners should look to their TD numbers to provide them week and league-winning upside.

    Round 3

    The years of getting stud, running quarterbacks in the later rounds are over. Josh Allen (3.2.), Jalen Hurts (3.8), and Lamar Jackson (3.10) all provide plenty of rushing production with solid to great passing results. Garrett Wilson, DeVonta Smith, Tee Higgins and Chris Olave are all high-quality young WR with various forms of upside. Smith and Higgins are stud 2nd options on their teams but produced WR1 numbers in the past. Their value would soar in the case of an injury ahead of them in the depth chart. Wilson and Olave both performed well as rookies and are looking to make big second-year jumps.

    Related Article: Sophomore WR Breakout Candidates

    Round 4

    Round 4 is littered with big-name WRs with question marks. Can DeAndre Hopkins perform wherever he ends up? Will Deebo Samuel stay healthy and regain his 2021 status? Does Keenan Allen stay healthy and avoid Father Time for another year? It feels like a lot of WR value will be found in this round and avoiding a lower tier RB, TE, or QB is the move to take.

    Round 5

    Teams started taking shots at RBs with question marks in round 5. Will Miles Sanders continue success without the top offensive line in the league? Is Jahmyr Gibbs going to live up to his draft capital? What is going on with Joe Mixon? The WRs in this round seem much more appealing than the RBs, but in some circumstances, a team may need an RB with their current roster build. Coming into round 5 with two RBs will solve that issue of needing a risky RB here.

    Round 6

    RBs in this round feel like safe RB2s. Cam Akers will get a lot of touches even if they are inefficient. J.K. Dobbins is one more year removed from his injury. James Conner has been a TD machine on the Cardinals, but will the Cardinals’ offense be scoring as much as it has in the past? The risk on RBs in this round feels better than the risky RBs in round 5. Going WR in round 5 and RB in round 6 seemed like the way to go here.

    Round 7

    Upside plays in Kedarius Toney, Javonte Williams and Rachad White highlight round 7. All three of these players have shown glimpses of their talent but have not fully put together a quality season. Opportunities are there for all these players and taking these types of calculated risks here in round 7 feels smart.

    Round 8

    10 quality FLEX options and two QBs filled round 8. The Kirk Cousins and Tua Tagovailoa draft capital compared to other QBs in their tier makes them seem like reaches. Kirk went to the team with Justin Jefferson, so that stack does add value. I don’t think these team managers will be very happy knowing they could’ve gotten a quality flex player like Alexander Mattison or taken a risk on an upside rookie like Jaxson Smith-Njigba and waited for three rounds for a similar quality QB.

    Round 9

    Both rookie WRs Jaxson Smith-Njigba and Quentin Johnston were drafted back to back in round 9. Few will argue that JSN is the better overall NFL prospect, but I think Johnston has a better chance at year 1 fantasy value due to the circumstances. DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are better and more reliable options than Keenan Allen and Mike Williams at this point in their careers. Plus, Justin Herbert is a more reliable player to bet on compared to one good season out of Geno Smith. In a dynasty draft I’d take JSN, but for this one year give me Johnston over JSN.

    Round 10

    Odell Beckham Jr., Zay Flowers, Adam Theilen, and Elijah Moore highlight the round 10 WRs who have question marks on how they will be utilized this year. All 4 of these players have the opportunity to take massive target shares on their new teams, but they fell to round 10 for a reason. They are all fliers and most likely only one of these players, if that, will have major fantasy impact in 2023.

    Round 11

    Upside TEs highlight round 11. Chig Okonkwo, Dalton Kincaid and Cole Kmet are all high-quality talents at TE with the opportunity to gain decent target shares. Chig showed his talent and ability to produce when targeted at the end of last season. He was a popular TE sleeper pick for 2023 when the 2022 NFL regular season closed. Dalton Kincaid has gotten a lot of hype as a potential solution to the Bills’ slot receiver vacancy. Rookie TEs normally don’t produce, but the upside in the Bills’ offense is worth the flier. Kmet feels like a post-hype sleeper to me. Bears added talent at WR, so there should be more targets opening up in the middle of the field for Kmet to claim. With Kmet, you are counting on a leap from Justin Fields in the passing game for him to pan out.

    Round 12

    Daniel Jones, Skyy Moore, and Anthony Richardson stick out to me here. Daniel Jones is a boring but solid fantasy QB option. He has proven rushing production, and the Giants seem to trust that he will keep developing as a QB. While I don’t have much faith in Skyy Moore, the WR1 is up for grabs in the Patrick Mahomes-led Chiefs offense and that alone makes Moore a worthwhile flyer at this point in the draft. Finally, Anthony Richardson has all the tools to be the next great rushing fantasy QB stud. I would draft him and another later-round QB for a safe and upside option at QB. Jones would be a great option as the safe QB to Richardson’s upside for those that want to wait on QB, but still want upside at the position.

    Round 13

    The RBs selected in 13th round are quality shots to take this late in the draft. What happens to Tank Bigby’s stock if the slender-framed Travis Etienne goes down? Kendre Miller has an opportunity to take the reins in the Saints’ backfield with an Alvin Kamara suspension looming. The Dolphins’ backfield is a mess but Raheem Mostert has provided value in the past so why not take the plunge to see what happens this year?

    Rounds 14 & 15

    Defenses and kickers started to go here. If I am not forced to draft a defense or kicker in a draft, I normally won’t. I see the argument of getting a Cowboys, Eagles or Bills defense or top kicker because then I never have to spend FAAB to get another one other than on bye weeks. Defenses and kickers are not that predictable year over year so I’d rather take the shot on some random training camp battle that might sort itself out and provide value or drop them before the season to add a defense and kicker for week 1.

    Team by Team Analysis

    Team 1

    Starting with Justin Jefferson is a very safe route for 1st overall pick in PPR. This team will live or die on whether their RBs pan out. Rhamondre Stevenson seems safe to produce, but Jahmyr Gibbs and Javonte Williams are both question marks due to workload questions and health respectively. Team 1 completed the stack of Jefferson and Kirk Cousins from the Vikings. I like the stack to add some upside to a rather safe Cousins, but it looks like the pick could’ve waited for a round or two based on when QBs were drafted in the round after Cousins.

    Team 2

    Having Josh Allen is always a plus in fantasy. Team 2 also drafted George Kittle in the 5th round. While Kittle there is a fine value, it results in shallow FLEX players. I normally only draft a TE and QB early if it’s a stack. This team is hurting at WR compared to the rest of the league as a result of going QB and TE early. Drake London might be a stud and breakout, and the same could be said for George Pickens and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Realistically they all won’t break out resulting in this team being only two-deep for trustworthy starting options at WR and RB. Josh Allen alone can close that gap, but replacing a Kittle with a Chris Godwin, Calvin Ridley, or Christian Watson and having Pat Freiermuth as starting TE I think provides more team upside.

    Team 3

    Team 3 is solid all around. With a mix of ssafe WR production in Ja’Marr Chase and a high-upside RB option in Travis Etienne, this team is quite balanced. James Conner in the 6th is very intriguing to me. The Cardinals could be very bad, but Conner has done nothing but produce in Arizona. The 6th round feels like a steal to pair with Etienne’s upside at RB position. Juju Smith-Schuster feels like such a boring pick this year on the meh New England offense, but at the end of the 8th round, this is great value for a startable flex player every week.

    Team 4

    The deepest and best overall WR group belongs to Team 4. Cooper Kupp, Jaylen Waddle, Calvin Ridley, and Mike Williams will allow this team to concentrate on RBs and TE with their waiver priorities. Najee Harris is super safe and valuable for a team that concentrated on WR in the first two rounds due to his heavy workload. Dalton Kincaid has upside at TE, but I would ensure I have a safe option that’s a guaranteed starter as well to pair with him.

    Team 5

    The deepest and best overall RB group belongs to Team 5. Austin Ekeler and Josh Jacobs leading the way with Cam Akers and Khalil Herbert as FLEX options is a strong group. Team 5’s WR group screams safe production. DeVonta Smith, Deebo Samuel, Chris Godwin and Treylon Burks all have safe target shares and roles for their respective teams. QB is where this team is lacking and needs some luck and/or help. Geno Smith in the 13th round is fine value considering he’s in the same tier as players like Tua Tagovailoa and Kirk Cousins who went in the 8th round, but it’s really going to hurt when team 5 is playing against a top-tier quarterback.

    Team 6

    Team 6 has my favorite stack for 2023 but paid up a lot for it. Ideally, teams want to draft Patrick Mahomes in the 3rd round. I don’t blame this team for paying up to ensure the stack, but as a result, their WR and RB positions are hurting. Marquise Brown in the 8th round most likely won’t pan out anymore with news of DeAndre Hopkins being cut, which happened while this mock was finishing up the later rounds. Daniel Jones in the 12th round is great value, but I don’t understand it if you have Mahomes or another top QB. Jones will never start over Mahomes if both are healthy. Team 6 is screwed either way if Mahomes gets hurt. Why not save that bench spot for a late-round flyer at WR or RB that could break out and take a starting slot instead of waiting till week 10 when Mahomes is on bye to play Jones?

    Team 7

    Tyreek Hill, Tony Pollard, Kenneth Walker, and Christian Watson combine for the most explosive team drafted. Add in Kyle Pitts who has all the talent needed for explosive plays, and you can see why this team is very fun. Joe Burrow in the fourth was high in my opinion. I think this trend will continue into draft season due to the top 3-4 QBs going around the 3rd round and team owners feeling pressured to get the next QB on board. Jalen Hurts, Josh Allen, and Patrick Mahomes provided a huge advantage to teams last year and were worth high draft capital. That doesn’t mean the next tier of QBs is worthy of a selection a round behind them. Trey Lance is a name to keep an eye on. If he gets and keeps the 49ers’ starting job, he will be a value in drafts.

    Team 8

    Bijan Robinson is going to stay a first-round pick in redraft leagues and I don’t know if everyone is ready for that. The last rookie RB drafted near the first round was Clyde Edwards-Helaire and he busted big time. Bijan is different. He’s the best prospect since Saquon and was drafted to a team whose coach has a history of feeding a bell cow back in Derrick Henry. Bijan should also be great in the passing game. Jalen Hurts is the safest QB to draft in my opinion. I’m not saying he will be a top-ranked QB but his rushing game provided a massive floor last year where he never busted and lost your team a game. Mid to late rounds I love the shots taken on Alexander Mattison, Zach Charbonnet, Zay Flowers, and Skyy Moore. All these players have a massive opportunity to gain major workloads. The Jared Goff pick is pointless to me. He’s not going to start over Hurts and that bench spot is much more valuable on a handcuff that might skyrocket in value with a training camp or preseason injury.

    Team 9

    Team 9 drafted a bunch of unknowns that make it very difficult to judge this team. Can Chris Olave make a massive year 2 jump? Where will DeAndre Hopkins play this year and is it a valuable landing spot? What’s going on with Joe Mixon’s potential legal situation? Is the second Washington Commanders receiving target a valuable piece in Jahan Dotson? Will Semaje Perine have a big workload to help Javonte Williams ease back from injury? The value for each pick is fine as is, but I wouldn’t be surprised if all these players’ draft capital moves a lot when we’re closer to week 1 of the regular season. Evan Engram in the 9th is my favorite pick for this team. He’s a solid starting TE that allows you to not worry about the position after draft night. He has the talent and has shown glimpses of breaking out multiple times but finally put together a consistent stretch at the end of last season into the playoffs.

    Team 10

    If this were 2020, I would love this draft based on the top 4 draft picks. For 2023, I don’t hate it. Derrick Henry’s value in a PPR league isn’t as high as Saquon Barkley’s, but Davante Adams in the second round is great. Lamar Jackson feels like he’s in a tier of his own with QBs this year. He has not proven to be dependable enough to be with Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Hurts and Josh Allen. However, he’s better for fantasy than Joe Burrow, Justin Fields, Justin Herbert and Trevor Lawrence and doesn’t belong with them either. With a healthy knee and an offensive coordinator more focused on the passing game I lean more toward Lamar finishing top tier, but I’m still unsure. This team is filled with quality depth from round 5 on. J.K. Dobbins is only getting healthier and Rashaad Penny could be RB1 in Philly. Maybe Michael Thomas is good again. Both Elijah Moore and Rondale Moore have opportunities to gain major target shares on their teams this year.

    Team 11

    Nick Chubb and D’Andre Swift in the 2nd and 3rd rounds feel like reaches based on the other RBs on the board. Chubb did not perform well once Deshaun Watson took over the starting duties in Cleveland. Taking him over Josh Jacobs and Tony Pollard is quite the risk. Swift in the third round when he’s not guaranteed a starting job and will get goal-line TDs stolen by his QB is rich for me. The swing for Anthony Richardson in the 12th round is a great risk to take that late in the draft. Running QBs can break fantasy football and Anthony Richardson is the most athletic QB to enter the league since the NFL Combine was created.

    Team 12

    Saquon Barkley falling to 12 feels like highway robbery. This team is a balanced team with a strong QB in Justin Herbert which they stacked with Keenan Allen to add even more upside. The WR depth on this team is great. Tyler Boyd in the second to last round is a wonderful handcuff. He only needs one of Tee Higgins or Ja’Marr Chase to go down to be a steal there. Chig Okonkwo is an upside play at TE well worth taking at the end of the 11th round. If Chig becomes a serviceable starting TE, this could be the deepest team drafted.

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