Thor Nystrom

Fantasy Draft

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Rookie Dynasty Mock Draft

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


 

A few weeks ago, I participated in a rookie dynasty mock draft hosted by Rotowire’s Mario Puig. The rules were simple: 12 teams drafting three rounds based on a standard scoring system and roster size (two RBs, three WRs and no flex in the starting lineup).

 

The following order was determined by random draw:

 

1. Russell Clay (freelancer)

2. John Laub (Football Diehards)

3. Paul Perdichizzi (Saturday2Sunday)

4. Matt Kelley (RotoUnderworld)

5. John McKechnie (RotoWire)

6. Thor Nystrom (Rotoworld)

7. Bryson Vesnaver (Pro Football Focus)

8. Matt Caraccio (Saturday2Sunday)

9. Mike Bainbridge (Athlon)

10. Mario Puig (Rotowire)

11. Anthony Amico (RotoViz)

12. Chris Kay (Daily Roto)

 

Round 1:

 

1

Russell Clay

Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

2

John Laub

Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

3

Paul Perdichizzi

Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

4

Matt Kelley

Corey Davis, WR, WMU

5

John McKechnie

Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

6

Thor Nystrom

John Ross, WR, Washington

7

Bryson Vesnaver

Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma

8

Matt Caraccio

Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee

9

Mike Bainbridge

D'Onta Foreman, RB, Texas

10

Mario Puig

Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma

11

Anthony Amico

JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC

12

Chris Kay

Curtis Samuel, RB/WR, Ohio State

 

Thor’s pick: Washington WR John Ross.

 

The board fell about as I expected it to—I would have taken Williams over Davis—and I took my No. 6 prospect with the No. 6 pick. Unsexy though that may be, Ross is an exciting fantasy prospect.

 

Ross (81-1,150-17 line last season) has been called a "DeSean Jackson clone” by CBS Sports’ Dane Brugler. An anonymous NFC scout told NFL.com during the season that Ross has the potential to "end up being being a better pro than Brandin Cooks." Ross will usually be the fastest player on the field at the next level, with the playmaking skills to score from anywhere.

 

The 5-foot-11, 179-pound former sprinter clocked a 4.25 second forty last spring. His kick returning chops are a fantasy bonus. Alabama coach Nick Saban called Ross “probably the best receiver we’ve played all year.” As far as recommendations go, that’s a pretty good one.

 

Ross’ hands and ball skills are being a bit undersold, in my opinion. I see a first-rounder in the spring, though some industry mock exercises have him dropping into the second stanza. My guess is Ross punches his first-round ticket at the Combine. Either way, he should be a fantasy asset from Day 1.

 

Also considered: USC WR JuJu Smith-Schuster and Texas RB D’Onta Foreman.

 

Best pick: Smith-Schuster.

 

I was astounded that Smith-Schuster dropped to No. 10. The panel of experts skewed decidedly towards the deep running back class throughout, leaving value to be had elsewhere. I thought Smith-Schuster would go in the middle of Rd. 1, as opposed to the end of it.

 

Smith-Schuster is a superior prospect to the Trojan receivers who came before him like Robert Woods, Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor. He’s a well-built, physical receiver who’s nearly the same size as Ole Miss TE Evan Engram. Smith-Schuster doesn’t mind contact and will throw a nasty stiff arm. Between his physicality and athleticism, Smith-Schuster is great after the catch.

 

He’s not a burner, but he’s got enough speed to test defenses deep. Smith-Schuster made numerous plays downfield in college with that unassuming speed, which can catch corners off-guard. He uses his stout frame to box out defenders, and he’s not going to be out-fought for the ball at the catch point.

 

Smith-Schuster has Dez Bryant or Brandon Marshall-upside if everything breaks right, an “X” (split end) receiver who’s strong enough to break press coverage and fast enough to get down the sideline. Even if Smith-Schuster doesn’t reach his No. 1 ceiling, he’ll be a strong second banana, which will still make him an attractive fantasy property.

 

Biggest reach: Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon.

 

Let’s get this out of the way: Joe Mixon has late Round 1 ability and may well become an NFL star in short order. On physical talent alone, he might be worth this slot.

 

But since Mixon once punched a woman, and was caught on tape doing so, there's more to consider than that. That transgression guarantees that he’ll fall in the NFL Draft. Just how far remains an open-ended question. Some think he’ll go undrafted. Some think a team may roll the dice on Day 2.

 

It’s my assumption that an organization will take a chance on Mixon early on Day 3, say in Round 4. He’ll likely enter a situation behind an established starter. Mixon will be on a zero-tolerance policy wherever he winds up. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he washes out of the league in the next few years.

 

The talent is undeniable, but for me, the risk was too great to consider taking him in the mid-first round of a dynasty draft.

 

Round 2:

 

13

Russell Clay

Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

14

John Laub

Jamaal Williams, RB, BYU

15

Paul Perdichizzi

O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama

16

Matt Kelley

Jeremy McNichols, RB, Boise State

17

John McKechnie

David Njoku, TE, Miami

18

Thor Nystrom

Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington

19

Bryson Vesnaver

Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo

20

Matt Caraccio

Evan Engram, TE, Mississippi

21

Mike Bainbridge

Wayne Gallman, RB, Clemson

22

Mario Puig

Taywan Taylor, WR, Western Kentucky

23

Anthony Amico

Shelton Gibson, WR, WVU

24

Chris Kay

Isaiah Ford, WR, Virginia Tech

 

Thor’s pick: Eastern Washington WR Cooper Kupp.

 

This draft took place before the Senior Bowl, otherwise known as Kupp’s national coming out party. Had this draft taken place after the Senior Bowl, I don’t think Kupp would have been available at No. 18 overall.

 

The Eastern Washington product dominated from the second he stepped on campus, setting an FCS record with 93 catches and 21 touchdowns as a freshman. Kupp never caught fewer than 100 balls in a season again. He finished his four-year career with 428 receptions, 6,464 yards and 73 touchdowns. Kupp shredded the four Pac-12 schools that EWU played during his career (11 touchdowns on 40 catches for 716 yards).

 

"The route running is really developed," an NFL scout said. "You watch him explode off the line, and he sinks his hips so well. I've never seen him not ready for the ball. There's some Jordy [Nelson] there, but the better comparison is Nuk [DeAndre Hopkins], because he's not the fastest guy but still separates well."

 

Kupp has outstanding hands, superb body control, NFL bloodlines (his grandfather is in the Saints’ Hall of Fame and his father briefly played quarterback for the Cowboys and Cardinals), a high football IQ and unimpeachable intangibles. "He's married, had a 3.6 GPA and scored a 37 on the Wonderlic. What more do you need to know?" said a director of player personnel.

 

Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller conducted a straw poll of eight NFL executives that found that Kupp's average predicted draft position was the mid- to late-second round. Draft Analyst's Tony Pauline also has a Rd. 2 grade on Kupp. Those projections, I think, have to do with the current uncertainty surrounding Kupp’s measurables. Estimates for his forty time have fallen anywhere between the 4.4s to the 4.6s.

 

“If he runs 4.4, he's going in the first round,” one scout said. Both NFL Media’s Gil Brandt and USA Today’s Luke Easterling have echoed the same sentiment. Getting Kupp at No. 18 overall in a rookie draft amid this weak receiver class is a steal.

 

Also considered: Clemson RB Wayne Gallman and WKU WR Taywan Taylor

 

Best pick: Gallman.

 

Gallman is my favorite second-tier back in this class, and I think he’ll be an NFL starter early in his career. He’s been one of the nation’s most versatile backs over the past few years, a strong runner, a superb receiver and a gifted pass blocker. Heck, Pro Football Focus liked his run blocking, too—not that he’ll be asked to do much of that in the NFL.

 

The 6-foot, 215-pounder is projected by CBS as a third- to fourth-rounder.

 

I would have been more interested in Taylor if Kupp hadn’t been available. Taylor is another Rotoworld favorite who Josh Norris has likened to John Brown.

 

Biggest reach: Boise State RB Jeremy McNichols.

 

I thought McNichols was over-drafted for a few reasons.

 

Firstly, better runners went behind him. I’m much higher on Hunt and Gallman than McNichols, and there are running backs that went undrafted (Corey Clement, Brian Hill, James Conner, Marlon Mack, etc.) that are in the same neighborhood from a future fantasy value perspective.

 

Secondly, there’s reason to be concerned about McNichols’ draft stock and NFL future. Draft Analyst’s Tony Pauline reported in December that McNichols has dealt with a shoulder injury “for almost a year which could raise red flags.” McNichols is a smallish back that received 554 carries over the past two seasons. It’s fair to wonder about his durability going forward.

 

ESPN’s Mel Kiper recently said that McNichols looked like a fourth- or fifth-rounder. CBS ranks him as the No. 11 running back in the draft and appraises his stock similarly. I see him as a third-down back.

 

McNichols is a downhill runner who isn’t big nor strong. For a smaller back, he lacks both long speed and explosion into the hole. He’s a good receiver, which will make him a solid platoon option in the right system, but the skill-set just isn’t there to justify this slot.

 

Round 3:

 

25

Russell Clay

Carlos Henderson, WR, Louisiana Tech

26

John Laub

ArDarius Stewart, WR, Alabama

27

Paul Perdichizzi

Malachi Dupre, WR, LSU

28

Matt Kelley

KD Cannon, WR, Baylor

29

John McKechnie

Elijah Hood, RB, UNC

30

Thor Nystrom

Mitch Trubisky, QB, UNC

31

Bryson Vesnaver

Pat Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech

32

Matt Caraccio

Joseph Williams, RB, Utah

33

Mike Bainbridge

Gerald Everett, TE, South Alabama

34

Mario Puig

Chris Godwin, WR, Penn State

35

Anthony Amico

Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma

36

Chris Kay

Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech

 

Thor’s pick: UNC QB Mitch Trubisky.

 

I should have taken Westbrook. Let me explain.

 

Open-ended industry mock drafts like this ask owners to square nebulous algorithms. Since we don’t have pre-set rosters, but are, by the design of the draft, asked to pretend that we do, situational assumptions must be made.

 

When it was my turn to pick, I whittled my consideration list to Trubisky or Westbrook. I initially leaned Westbrook because I tend to wait on quarterbacks and stream in NFL fantasy leagues. But I ended up siding with Trubisky because he’s certain to start early in his career.

 

I was concerned that Westbrook’s off-field issues and (assumed) mediocre measurables could lead to a Draft Day tumble, and that his smallish frame and lack of high-end speed may relegate him to a career as an NFL backup. ESPN’s Todd McShay projects Westbrook as a mid-rounder. "The big question: What's his real speed?" McShay wrote. "His combine 40 times will factor heavily into where he gets taken."  

 

Trubisky, on the other hand, is a decent bet to go in the top-three (the Browns, 49ers and Bears, in order, hold those picks). Wherever he goes, he’ll be expected to play early. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein comps Trubisky to Matthew Stafford. Stafford is a pretty solid comparison for Trubisky’s fantasy upside as well, with Alex Smith serving as a more conservative appraisal, and Blaine Gabbert representing our worst-case scenario.

 

“There are times he looks like another Carson Wentz and then there are times he looks like Blaine Gabbert,” an AFC scout said. “He has starting qualities and he’ll go early, but he better get better at seeing blitzes and throwing hot or he’ll get eaten alive by the exotic packages they are throwing at quarterbacks these days.”

 

Trubisky is not the type of prospect that wins a fantasy championship, which caused me to second-guess this pick from the time I submitted it. I believe in swinging for the fences throughout fantasy drafts and mercifully hitting the waiver wire during the season to remove misses from the roster.

 

After the die had been cast on my pick, I took a different angle on Trubisky vs. Westbrook. This time, I attempted to ballpark each’s relative value by returning to a 14-team NFL industry dynasty league draft I took part in last August. I co-own that team with Raymond Summerlin. He and I have similar strategies with regards to waiting on quarterbacks.

 

At pick No. 199 overall, we finally had to pull the trigger on Carson Wentz. Wentz was the No. 2 overall pick in last year’s NFL Draft, about where Trubisky is being projected (No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff, by the way, went No. 163 overall in that dynasty draft). The five rookies selected after Wentz in that draft were RB Josh Ferguson, RB Alex Collins, WR Rashard Higgins, RB Daniel Lasco and RB Dewayne Washington.

 

If this year’s Dede Westbrook had been in that draft, I’m confident in saying that he would have gone before Wentz. It is for that reason that I would do my pick over if I could.

 

Also considered: Oklahoma WR Dede Westbrook and Virginia Tech WR/TE Bucky Hodges.

 

Best pick: Westbrook. He should have gone in Round 2.

 

Biggest reach: Utah RB Joe Williams.

 

Zierlein comps Williams to Jerick McKinnon, which I think is fair if you’re just considering the Williams we saw on the field in the second half (1,332 yards and 10 touchdowns across the last seven games). But when you consider Williams' lack of durability and excess of off-field issues, he starts to look more like the potential undrafted free agent that CBS lists him as.

 

An NFC scout summed up my thoughts thusly: "Just too many red flags for me. Getting kicked out of UConn for theft was strike one, but then you have his fumbles and his 'retirement'. I just don't want that hassle. Too many players to choose from."

 

I’ve also heard rumors that Williams has suffered more concussions than the media is aware of, a topic he touched on when asked by Bleacher Report’s C.J. Moore why he briefly retired following Week 2 last season.

 

"Just some nagging injuries," said Williams, who indicated he was dealing with pain in his back, knees and shins. "I had some concussions here and there that never really got looked into. Overall, everything was hurting."

 

With Westbrook, Hodges and a slew of decent running back prospects still available, I would have passed on the enigmatic Williams.

 

Top-10 undrafted players on my board:

 

1.Cal WR Chad Hansen

2. ECU WR Zay Jones

3. Wisconsin RB Corey Clement

4. Clemson TE Jordan Leggett

5. Texas A&M WR Josh Reynolds

6. Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer

7. Wyoming RB Brian Hill

8. Michigan WR Amara Darboh

9. UL-Lafayette RB Elijah McGuire

10. Pittsburgh RB James Conner



Thor Nystrom is a former MLB.com associate reporter whose writing has been honored by Rolling Stone magazine and The Best American Essays series. Say hi to Rotoworld's college football writer on Twitter @thorku.
Email :Thor Nystrom



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