The Zone Read - Pre-Draft & Post-Draft Rookie Mock Drafts - Clock Dodgers
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The Zone Read – Pre-Draft & Post-Draft Rookie Mock Drafts

As we all know quite well, the offseason can be one of the most tedious times of year for the casual football fan. For the true fantasy savant however, the offseason is a time of excitement and anticipation. All of the offseason buzz about “Player X is in the best shape of his life” or “This is the year that Player Z finally breaks out, we expect big things from him” keeps us on our toes leading up to the season, and sorting through all the coach-speak to decide for ourselves what’s real and what’s rubbish can be a bit of a rush.  

Personally, my favorite time of the offseason is the pre-draft process. Watching the Scouting Combine and pro-day results to see which of my favorite rookie candidates will excel, and which could disappoint is both exciting and a bit challenging. It’s easy for a player to have a spectacular pro-day, only to flame out and prove to be nothing more than a workout warrior (see: Russell, JaMarcus). This is why while your own personal perception is important, contrasting that with the data and opinions of others seems to be the best way to draw a conclusion on about where a player might fall as a talent before we even know his landing spot.

As a fun exercise to gather other people’s perceptions, I organized a group of Fantasy Life App members to conduct a pre and post-draft rookie only mock. 12 teams (myself included), conducted 4 rounds of a slow-draft in a group chat before the NFL draft took place. Below is a brief write-up on the round-by-round draft picks, using nothing more than their college production and offseason testing. Without any further ado, let’s begin.

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– Round 1 –

1.01-Leonard Fournette (to RTSV)

This pick should come as little surprise to anyone. Head and shoulders above the other running back competition, Fournette’s injury concerns seem to have been put to rest by a rock-solid pro day. The vertical is a mild concern compared to the 4.51 40 that he blazed weighing 240 lbs (for reference, that’s really flipplin’ fast for a big man). Regardless of landing spot, Fournette should come in and take the wheel as a face-smashing bellcow. The questions of his passing game chops are merited, but that’s an area that can be developed.

1.02-Christian McCaffrey (to AlbinoSquirrel)

Is he Dexter McCluster, or is he Lesean McCoy? McCaffrey may be one of the more polarizing prospects leading up to the draft, as his landing spot could either greatly boost or tank his stock. Few other players in this class can sniff his dynamic abilities, and no matter where you put him on the field he will produce. The ideal scenario seems to be going to a place where he isn’t asked to be a bellcow right off the bat, though I do believe in time he has the chops of a three down back. The landing spot in the draft is crucial.

1.03-Mike Williams (to Ramsfan0606)

A highly productive weapon on the biggest of college stages, Williams looks the part of the complete package as a big-bodied receiver. 4.5 speed is good for a man of his size, and from a physical standpoint he’s got all the tools teams covet. He’s best suited not to step in as a team’s #1 right off the bat, as his route running leaves room for improvement. If he can go to a spot that has a solid veteran core, Williams has the potential to be special.

1.04-Corey Davis (to Txchief)

Viewed by many as the best receiver in this draft class, Corey Davis did little to boost his stock in the offseason, sitting out the combine and pro day with an injury. Still, his collegiate production cannot be ignored regardless of the level of talent that he faced and teams have to be in love with the way he runs his routes. If he can get his drops under control and prove healthy, Davis should be able to step in and produce right off the bat.

1.05-Joe Mixon (to Chastain)

Some would say that Joe Mixon is the most talented and most complete back in this draft class, and watching his game film it’s not hard to see why.  Despite sharing a backfield with another highly talented back, Mixon tore up the Big 12 on the ground and through the air.  The looming black cloud for him is his suspension and off-field questions, but it’s also fair to question the level of competition he faced in a relatively weak power conference.  If he can improve his pass protection, Mixon has a real shot to lead a backfield committee wherever he goes.

1.06-O.J Howard (to Lilmatthewberry)

Looking like the byproduct out of maxed out “create-a-player” tight end from Madden, Howard has the kind of build and skill set that makes coaches salivate.  Combine that with playing for one of the nation’s top programs at Alabama, and it’s almost a lock that he’ll go in the top of the first round.  It’s not talent or production that’s the question with Howard, though it is fair to wonder why such a gifted athlete wasn’t used more often.  My answer to that is the sheer amount of weapons that the Crimson Tide boasted, plus the nature of their ground-and-pound offense.  He probably won’t put up 1,000 yards, but a 10 touchdown Hunter Henry like rookie season seems feasible regardless of landing spot.

1.07-John Ross (to Ryanharrison)

An absolute speed demon, John Ross can run so fast that it physically cause him harm.  In all seriousness, I am of the belief that the litany of red-flags regarding Ross’ injuries has been overstated, and I feel that in him a team will be getting a multi-dimensional weapon that can produce in both the 1st and 3rd phases of the game.  As a receiver he strikes me as a more pro-ready T.Y Hilton, having a more complete route tree than people might realize.  As a punt returner, he could have a Desean Jackson-like impact.  His best situation seems to be one where he can play beside a true number 1, he’s not a prototypical alpha type like Williams or Davis could be, but he’s a special talent that should have a nice career.

1.08-Dalvin Cook (to Packersfan)

Cook is a sad example of what happens during the pre-draft process when off-field concerns become overstated.  Even more unfortunate for him is the relatively disappointing combine performance that he put together.  I believe that Cook is a better on-field athlete than his combine numbers suggest, but the incredibly low SPARQ score does lead me to pause.  I’m not sure he has the alpha-dog upside of Fournette or Mixon, but he can be a very solid piece in a team’s backfield rotation.

1.09-Deshaun Watson (to Turners1)

The biggest argument for Watson over the other quarterbacks in this class is his intangibles.  He’s a solid player, but I wouldn’t say he’s the most physically gifted.  What sets him apart is his on-field command, and the leadership skills and attitude that he’s been praised for.  I personally value that over a cannon-armed gunslinger; to me Watson has the capacity to just about everything you ask of him, and while he may not be a gamebreaker he does have enough athletic potential in and outside of the pocket to keep the drive alive.  He may draw Alex Smith comparisons, and while I don’t think that’s entirely fair in a league where quarterback talent is hard to find that could be enough to give him a solid career in the right setting.  Team fit is crucial for him.

1.10-Alvin Kamara (to Winning)

Kamara greatly improved his draft stock with a scorching combine performance.  He doesn’t necessarily have the look of a 3 down back right out of the gate, but as rotational backfields become a bigger part of the league he doesn’t have to be.  In him teams will be getting a dynamic athlete that can be valuable in the return game and on passing downs.  His vision and reading of the defense need to improve, and he’s had his own attitude questions that seem to be glossed over.  He just doesn’t have the look of a potential lead back to me; not that he has to be, but I believe his upside is capped.

1.11-D’Onta Foreman (to Drdynasty)

An absolute wrecking ball for the Longhorns, Foreman exploded onto the scene with a 2,000 yard campaign in his first season as a full time starter.  For a 230+ pound back though, Foreman at times looked more like a dancing bear than a bull in a china shop, defaulting to finesse moves to beat opposition rather than using his size and strength.  It got him by in the college game, but the speed of the pros will make life miserable for him if he doesn’t start playing to his strengths.  Still, Foreman has the tools teams covet in a lead back, and a 4.45 40 is nothing to sneeze at for a man of his size.  Give him a year or so to develop and he has the ability to become a real stud.

1.12-Curtis Samuel (to 2drinkminimum)

A do-it-all player for the Buckeyes, Samuel has a similar skillset to Christian McCaffrey, just with worse hands and much more raw talent.  Samuel will be a project at the next level, but if he can develop his routes and improve his hands he could be a weapon in the mold of Darren Sproles.  4.31 speed is nothing to sneeze at, and his production at the college level can’t be ignored.  Landing spot is key for Samuel’s growth and development, but with the right coaching he’ll be a multi-faceted weapon that will give defensive coordinators headaches.

– Round 2 –

2.01-Samaje Perine (to RTSV)

Some would argue that Perine was the best back in the Oklahoma backfield, and from a pure production standpoint it’s not hard to see why.  Shattering Adrian Peterson’s record as the Sooners’ all-time leading rusher, Perine capitalized on the 2014 suspension of Joe Mixon to the tune of 1800 total yards and 21 touchdowns.  While his statistics went on to decrease each of the following years, it’s fair to chalk that up to splitting a backfield with Mixon.  Still, Perine’s lack of top end speed (4.65 40) and lack of volume in the passing game (40 total career catches) could be a concern to some teams, and he might be viewed as more of a two-down thumper.  Expect Perine to enter an NFL camp as a competitor for a lead role, rather than being handed one outright.

2.02-David Njoku (to Albinosquirrel)

It’s scary to look at Njoku’s college production and realize that he’s still far from a finished product.  A physical freak that dominated during his time in Miami, Njoku has the athletic profile that teams who are seeking the next Jordan Reed will covet.  It’s not entirely fair to call Njoku a strict “move” tight end, as while his pass-blocking still needs work it has definitely improved throughout his time in college.  He’ll need some time to adjust to the pro game, but it wouldn’t surprise me if in 3 years we were looking at Njoku as the best tight end in this class.

2.03-Chris Godwin (to Ramsfan0606)

A productive weapon for Trace McSorley, Chris Godwin drastically boosted his draft stock with a stellar combine.  He profiles better as a possession/red-zone type of receiver early on, so going to a location with an established receiving core where he can grow and adjust to the speed of the league for a year or so seems best.  Still, in time Godwin has the look of someone who could become a solid secondary receiving option in a pro-style offense.

2.04-Evan Engram (to Txchief)

The definition of a “move” tight end, Engram almost looks more the part of a receiver than he does a traditional tight end.  He can’t be expected to block; no this is a guy who needs to get out in space and use his athleticism to give his team a lethal threat down the seam.  His athleticism is second to none, and if there’s a Jordan Reed type in this class he fits the bill.  

2.05-Zay Jones (to Chastain)

No college receiver in history has caught the ball more times than Zay Jones throughout his career, which in and of itself is an impressive feat.  A closer look at the game film however makes one wonder if he wasn’t set up for that level of success by his offense.  The ECU system used a lot of short slant and dig routes to get Jones his targets, and we’ve seen this type of success from former Pirate receivers in the past (see: Hardy, Justin).  Still, Jones boasts solid athletic potential, and can give a team a solid option underneath.  Just don’t ask him to be your #1, as I think in that regard he’ll disappoint.

2.06-JuJu Smith-Schuster (to Lilmatthewberry)

The negative stigma surrounding USC receivers is well-documented, but Smith-Schuster has a chance to break the curse.  He’s still very young (only will turn 21 in November), and with maturity some of the negative facets of his game (focus, lack of effort etc) should fade.  If he can mature, he has incredible vision and awareness, and is a physically gifted athlete with the ball in his hands.  He’s definitely a work in progress, but he has the upside to be a team’s #1, with a role as a high end #2 more likely in his future.

2.07-Cooper Kupp (to Ryanharrison)

One of the best receivers in FCS history, Cooper Kupp dominated the competition he faced during his time at Eastern Washington.  While he won’t fool anybody as a physical specimen, Kupp has a set of hands that are second to none, and boasts a certain toughness about his game that coaches should love.  A hard worker with great football IQ and focus, Kupp may not be the flashiest of picks but he’s a guy that can play all the positions and run all the routes, giving him the diversity necessary to carve out a solid role for himself just about anywhere.

2.08-Dede Westbrook (to Packersfan)

A combination of small frame, old age and some negative off-field press makes the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner a tough case to peg.  Westbrook doesn’t have the size or skillset to be a team’s #1 option, and even slotting in as a 2 seems like a reach.  As a big-play hitter with good speed, Westbrook’s best contributions might come on special teams or as a rotational slot player wherever he lands.  

2.09-Kareem Hunt (to Turners1)

One of the most highly productive backs to come out of the MAC, Hunt never averaged less than 5 yards per carry during his four years at Toledo.  Questions could rise about his level of competition, and rightfully so, but Hunt boasts the vision, agility and versatility that will earn him a shot at the top spot in a team’s backfield rotation.

2.10-James Conner (to Winning)

One of college football’s best stories last season, Conner’s cancer-beating tale highlights all of the intangibles coaches look for in a team leader.  With mental toughness on par with his physical toughness, Conner will bring a strong work ethic and positive attitude to whatever camp brings him in.  None of this should distract you from his natural talent though, Conner is a bulldozer that will punish would-be tacklers even at the pro level.  His lack of versatility may pigeon-hole him into a two-down role, but Conner will establish himself as a strong rotational piece sooner or later.

2.11-Ryan Switzer (to Drdynasty)

A tough little slot man in the mold of Julian Edelman or Cole Beasley, Switzer is a twitchy on-field technician who handles his routes with sharp precision.  He won’t ever be confused as an outside guy, but can be a weapon out of the slot with his great footwork and sharp patterns.  He may hold more value on special teams than anywhere else, but in the right landing spot Switzer can carve out a role for himself that already boasts an established target or two to open up lanes underneath for him.

2.14-Carlos Henderson (to 2drinkminimum)

Pure electricity with the ball in his hands, Henderson was a multi-dimensional phenom throughout his career at Louisiana Tech.  As valuable on special teams as he was on offense, Henderson clearly showed that his level of talent was superior to that of the competition that he faced.  Playing at the pro level, Henderson will need to prove that his fundamentals are as sharp as his physicality is, sharpening his routes and playing with more consistent hands and speed.  He’ll earn a spot as a team’s return man, but with solid growth he can grow into a solid #3 target.

– Round 3 –

3.01-ArDarius Stewart (to RTSV)

The definition of an Alabama football player, Stewart plays his game with toughness and aggression.  He won’t blow anybody away with speed or flashy play, but he has the right combination of football IQ and awareness to make an impact wherever he goes.  His experience fielding kicks is an added bonus that should give Stewart a prominent role wherever he catches on.

3.02-Josh Reynolds (to Albinosquirrel)

Despite being surrounded by great talent in College Station, Reynolds still managed to top 1,000 yards in his 2016 season along with 12 scores.  He’s got good height, but weighing in at only 190+ pounds you’d like to see him put on some mass to fight off defenders.  Still, Reynolds has all of the tools teams look for, and while he may not be a bona fide 1 he has the skills to become a addition in the right system.  It depends on the situation, but Reynolds has a sneaky shot to be one of the better receivers from this draft class.

3.03-Marlon Mack (to Ramsfan0606)

One of the more fun players to watch in college, Marlon Mack’s game film at times looked like something straight out of Madden.  One of his most ‘madden’ing (pun fully intended) traits however is his propensity to take every run to the outside.  He may have had the speed and quickness to get away with that in the AAC, but the NFL is a different type of beast.  In order to succeed at the next level, Mack will need to show more power and decisiveness, as well as better hands (12 fumbles over 3 years won’t cut it…just ask Matt Jones).

3.04-Malachi Dupre (to Txchief)

If you judge Malachi Dupre based solely off of his college numbers, you’ll only be looking at the tip of the iceberg.  Dupre has athleticism in spades, and although he’s not the fastest athlete on the field he can make all the catches.  His lack of a top gear means he likely profiles as a 3rd option or a possession receiver, but in the right offense that will suit him just fine.  He has upside for more, but his talent seems affixed to his situation.

3.05-KD Cannon (to Chastain)

A big-play threat every time he has the ball in his hands, the key to cannons game is ensuring that he can actually get the ball.  Cannon has athleticism and speed to spare, but his technical game is lacking and his hands can be frustrating.  He enters the NFL as a human go-route; teams expecting any more from his route tree will be disappointed.  In the right offense and with the right coaching he could become a solid situational deep threat, but that seems to be about his ceiling.

3.06-Taywan Taylor (to Lilmatthewberry)

Any team that’s looking for an athletic slot receiver should salivate over Taylor’s game.  A quick, dynamic athlete with good vision, Taylor is an explosive creator with the ball in his hands.  In the right scheme, Taylor has the potential to expand his arsenal and could be dynamic enough to play in different positions across the offense.  The small school questions will arise, but Taylor showed to be productive regardless of competition (121 yards against the always sturdy Alabama defense).

3.07-Gerald Everett (to Ryanharrison)

Another player in the basketball-to-gridiron pipeline, Everett showed great progress during his time at South Alabama.  He has incredible athleticism, natural hands and looks comfortable as a blocker.  Nobody will mistake him as a Jimmy Graham-like technician, but Everett has the physical attributes coaches are looking for when searching for a pass-catching tight end.

3.08-Isaiah Ford (to Packersfan)

An explosive athlete who produced well at a high level, Ford has the speed and ball skills to succeed at the next level.  What he appears to be missing is any sort of finesse or technical ability, as he seems to rely almost exclusively on his physical gifts to make plays.  He won’t out-play anybody at the next level however, so he will need to work hard on better routes and more technical focus if he is going to stick on a roster.

3.09-Jake Butt (to Turners1)

In a world that seems to desire the hyper athletic move tight ends more and more, Jake Butt is a throwback to the Jason Witten-like “do-it-all” player.  Coming off of an ACL tear, the former Mackey award winner boasts a game that’s defined by great toughness, good hands and a strong football attitude.   He won’t wow anybody with his speed or athleticism, and he has work to do in the run game but with time and good opportunity Butt can develop into a reliable staple for just about any offense.

3.10-Jordan Leggett (to Winning)

A key component to Clemson’s national title, Leggett produced at a high level during his time in Death Valley, despite being surrounded by a multitude of talented receivers.  With great hands and a good feel for the game, Leggett has the tools and athletic potential for solid production.  His biggest question mark can’t be overstated however; as a self proclaimed “lazy” player, Leggett has received numerous criticisms over his effort and attitude, which is frightening for a player of his caliber.  Technique can be coached, and athletic ability can be improved, but effort and attitude are purely self-motivating characteristics.  In essence, Leggett can only be as good as he wants to be.

3.11-Elijah Hood (to Drdynasty)

An absolute wrecking ball between the tackles, Hood is a big back who knows how to use his size.  He doesn’t boast top end speed, but with his size he doesn’t have to.  What really gives Hood an advantage is his sound pass blocking ability; if he can translate that to the pros, that’s something that will go a long way to keeping him on the field.  Though he’s not hyper athletic, Hood does just about everything well enough to be a capable back on all three downs.

3.12-Wayne Gallman (to 2drinkminimum)

Nobody will mistake Gallman for Marlon Mack, and that’s okay.  Gallman is who he is, a hard-nosed runner who can create good yards after contact and keep the chains moving.  He’s not overly flashy, and he’s not the type to bust off many “wow” plays, but for a team looking for a steady option to run down the clock, Gallman has the tools.  With time to adjust to the speed of the NFL, Gallman can be a solid part of a committee with the upside for more.

– Round 4 –

4.01-Speedy Noil (to RTSV)

A case of where potential and production fail to match up, Speedy Noil is an absolute freak who ran into trouble after a promising freshman campaign.  He never put up more than 600 yards in a season, and racked up multiple team suspensions for behavioral issues.  If he can get his head on straight, Noil can be a lethal weapon on offense and in the return game, but his checkered past and poor route running could see him out of the league sooner than later.

4.02-Brian Hill (to Albinosquirrel)

Hill is a thumper, a between-the-tackles grinder that has the burst to punish defenders.  He also has shown above average pass-blocking skills, which will be crucial to his next-level transition.  Hill is accustomed to virtually any style of run scheme, which gives him good versatility.  In the right setting, Hill could work his way into a starting role sooner than later.

4.03-Jamaal Williams (to Ramsfan0606)

Built like a prototypical running back, Williams’ size and measurables alone are likely to draw the interest of multiple NFL teams despite a checkered history at BYU.  He’s not known for his athleticism, but the game film shows a real thumper who could thrive in the right system.  He wasn’t asked to be very multidimensional in BYU’s system, but his potential seems to indicate an even higher ceiling than what he’s demonstrated.

4.04-Amara Darboh (to Txchief)

He won’t blow anybody away with ultra-fast game speed or overly acrobatic catches, but Darboh has the skillset of a strong chain-moving possession receiver who has the size to dominate at the next level.  Coming out of the Michigan system he has a diverse skillset that includes smooth routes and a tough run-blocking attitude.  He won’t be the flashiest of players, but he has the potential to be a solid contributor to an offense in need of a steady pair of hands.

4.05-Jeremy McNichols (to Chastain)

A dynamic athlete with the ball in his hands, McNichols has a great combination of quickness and size that profiles him as a potential three-down back.  He doesn’t have a top gear to burn defenses, but his shiftiness, agility and excellent vision gives him a chance to produce on every run.  He’ll need to improve his pass-blocking in order to command a large role early on, but he should catch on as part of a rotation to start his career.

4.06-Patrick Mahomes (to Lilmatthewberry)

He could be Brett Favre, or he could be Johnny Manziel.  Mahomes is a true gunslinger, boasting a cannon for an arm and a daredevil with the ball.  He has a diverse skillset as well, having the versatility to excel on the ground as well as through the air.  He does have a little Jay Cutler to his game, where his power can sometimes get the best of him, and his touch is sometimes spotty.  Still, Mahomes is a creator, and has all of the tools a team wants in a potential franchise quarterback.  He could start right away, but his best fit to me is on a team where he can sit, learn and compete for a starting role.

4.07-Donnel Pumphrey (to Ryanharrison)

If Pumphrey were 4 inches taller and about 40 pounds heavier, there’s an outside chance we could be talking about him as one of the top backs in this class.  His production at San Diego State as the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher is undeniable, and he boasts a highlight reel filled of dynamic high-octane runs.  He’s incredibly shifty, but not necessarily the fastest guy on the field.  If he can continue to play bigger than his frame, Pumphrey could be a player in the Darren Sproles mold.

4.08-Corey Clement (to Packersfan)

Clement has the size of a typical NFL power back, but his attitude may be his biggest question.  He doesn’t come without some maturity questions, although his on field production during his time at running back factory Wisconsin could persuade some teams to look past those.  He has the look of a runner who runs with physical authority but not much feel for the game, and a spotty pass-blocking skill-set could hinder his touches.  In the right system he could become a solid goal-line asset.

4.09-TJ Logan (to Turners1)

The lightning to Elijah Hood’s thunder, Logan runs with good quickness and a lightning-fast top gear to break away from defenders.  He’s lacking in size, and seems to fit more as a passing-down back with his great hands.  He’ll need to keep the ball off of the ground in order to stay off of the bench, but the right system could see him thrive as part of a rotation.

4.10-Mitchell Trubisky (to Winning)

He has the size, skills and production that teams look for in a starting quarterback, but he also only has one year of starting experience under his belt.  Inexperience aside, Trubisky has the credentials (Ohio Mr. Football, one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks out of high school).  He’ll need some time to learn how to play under center and adapt to a pro-style offense, but if he can continue to grow and develop Trubisky has the tools and competitive nature to become a franchise player.

4.11-Krishawn Hogan (to Drdynasty)

The only real knock on Hogan is his lack of competitive experience (played in the NAIA).  Otherwise, he has an NFL build and has shown great ball-skills during his college career.  He’s an end-zone machine, has good speed and can make all the catches.  Hogan is definitely raw and will need time to adjust to the speed of the pros, but Hogan could well be a diamond in the rough for whatever team brings him on.

4.12-Bucky Hodges (to 2drinkminimum)

A work in progress at the tight end position, Hodges may well be viewed more like a wide receiver at the next level.  Still, he does show promise at the tight end position, having developed acceptable blocking skills in his brief career.  Where he excels is as a pass-catcher, boasting speed and agility that’s rare for an athlete of his size.  He can line up just about anywhere on the field, and under the right offensive tutelage Hodges could develop into a nice weapon for any pass-catching arsenal.

Hit the page 2 tab to check out the post-draft rookie mock!

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