I recently went through with my annual one-man mock draft ritual (results below). Call it vanity or self-indulgence, but I will always maintain that it's an excellent preparatory exercise for the draft day that matters. I try to take on the mindset of each team with each and every pick. But I'm not saying that if I did this again, the results would be the same. I wrestled with a lot of decisions, and odds are that if I went through this exercise 100 times, each one would be slightly different. At any rate, this is how a draft would look at this moment in time if it was made up 12 Brandon Funstons (default scoring) – yes, I know how scary a thought that is for some of you.
Domanick Davis – On his balky knee, he's going to have a hard time matching the 11 games played from last season. Hope that there are some nice players that drop to you if you're drafting in the late second or early third round so you aren't pressed to make a tough decision on Davis.
Denver running backs – Undrafted RB Mike Bell atop the Broncos depth chart? C'mon, Mr. Shanahan. Do you know what you are doing to us? I played it conservative in this draft, sticking with Tatum Bell and Ron Dayne as the two top Broncos to get out of the backfield. But I slipped Mike Bell in at the 8th round for now, with no clue how this all plays out. Said Shanahan, "It could change day to day, week to week, but we felt that Mike deserves a chance to work with the first team. And we'll take a look to see if he can keep it." So, this doesn't sound like a rock-solid promotion, but perhaps a little kick-in-the-butt motivation for his veterans Tatum Bell and Dayne. Stay (very, very) tuned …
Curtis Martin – It is looking more and more like Martin (knee) will be added to the list of all-time great running backs that will be physically unable to perform in '06, joining Priest Holmes and Marshall Faulk. Even if he does play, it's more likely to be at some point mid-season or beyond. So, who benefits from Martin's absence? Cedric Houston, for now. But he has limited upside. He's a grinder, but incapable of making your jaw drop. For that reason, Derrick Blaylock will likely play in concert with Houston. But, the Jets are interested in Thomas Jones and Chris Brown, among others, and either would deserve to be bumped up on draft boards if they made the move to East Rutherford – Jones is behind Cedric Benson on the depth chart, and Brown figures to have to fend off LenDale White and, perhaps, Travis Henry for carries.
Deion Branch – Branch went in the fifth round here, and that's basically representing that there is little reason to worry about his holdout. That's probably true, as most serious holdouts typically end around the latter part of training camp. With Tom Brady publicly backing Branch's side of the dispute, I can't imagine something not getting done before the regular season commences. But, still, there is the possibility that this goes longer than is typical. New England's front office generally takes a hard stance in this type of situation. If you take Branch around the fifth round, you have to accept that the early season could include some rustiness or possibly some DNPs.
Reuben Droughns – Droughns is a full-featured back, which makes him attractive in fantasy leagues for that reason alone. Last season, he handled 309 carries for 1,232 yards, but just two touchdowns. The Browns added pile-driver C LeCharles Bentley to the offensive line in hopes of improving upon a rushing game that was terrible in short-yardage rushing situations. Unfortunately, Bentley was lost for the season (knee) during training camp, and now backup C Bob Hallen has went AWOL from camp as he is dealing with a back injury. Cleveland is preparing as if Hallen is hanging it up this season, which means that this line has lost most of its "new and improved" label. The hope that the improved short game would lead to more TDs for Droughns is diminishing. Droughns is still a nice fantasy back, but he no longer offers the upside to validate a top 25 selection, as I've seen him go in some early drafts.
One of the purposes for conducting one's own mock draft is to get a sense of position tiering and when runs on positions will take place. In my mock, 13 of the first 15 picks were running backs. But compared to last season, when I recall that our Y! Friends and Family League draft had 22 RBs taken among the first 26 picks, the second layer of running backs doesn't look as strong this season, and that was evident in that only 16 RBs went here among the top 26 picks.
The second round now belongs to the elite receivers. Figure that Steve Smith, Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson, Marvin Harrison, Torry Holt, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Randy Moss and even TE Antonio Gates make easy arguments for second-round placement, and bring fewer question marks than the running backs that I took in the second round (McGahee, Westbrook, Julius Jones, Kevin Jones and Domanick Davis).
As for the quarterbacks, unless you really have to have Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, two name-brand QBs that you can bet will be drafted among the top 3-4 rounds in your draft, the best time to dive in for a signal caller is between Rounds 5-8. In my mock, 10 of the league's 12 QB1s went off the board in that four-round span.
TEs seem to be all over the map this year, and in only three of the 16 rounds that I mocked did more than one tight end get taken (Round 4, Round 9 and Round 16). The experts drafts I've participated in thus far bear this out. Quality tight ends fall late, and there is little need for a TE run to arise given that the depth of serviceable options after the big four of Gates, Gonzalez, Shockey and Heap are off the board is ample.
Here is a list of the order of the top backup RBs taken (draft round selected in parentheses, with an * next to a handcuff pick):
1. DeAngelo Williams, Car (5*)
2. Thomas Jones, Chi (6)
3. LenDale White, Ten (6)
4. Marion Barber, Dal (6*)
5. Laurence Maroney, NE (7)
6. Chris Perry, Cin (8*)
7. Mike Anderson, Bal (8)
8. Greg Jones, Jac (8*)
9. Ryan Moats, Phi (9)
10. Samkon Gado, GB (10)
11. Mewelde Moore, Min (10)
12. Ladell Betts, Was (10*)
13. Michael Turner, SD (10*)
How is how some of the most prominent platoon situations played out:
Denver Broncos – Ron Dayne (4); Tatum Bell (5); Mike Bell (8)
Indianapolis Colts – Joseph Addai (4); Dominic Rhodes (5)
Pittsburgh Steelers – Willie Parker (3); Verron Haynes (10); Duce Staley (12)
New Orleans Saints – Reggie Bush (4); Deuce McAllister (4)
New York Jets – Cedric Houston (10); Curtis Martin (13); Derrick Blaylock (16)
Below is a breakdown of the number of players taken by position in each round of my mock draft:
|Positions Selected Per Round|
|Rd. 1 –||0||11||1||0||0||0|
|Rd. 2 –||1||5||6||0||0||0|
|Rd. 3 –||0||6||5||1||0||0|
|Rd. 4 –||1||5||4||2||0||0|
|Rd. 5 –||3||3||5||1||0||0|
|Rd. 6 –||2||7||3||0||0||0|
|Rd. 7 –||2||2||7||1||0||0|
|Rd. 8 –||3||4||3||1||0||1|
|Rd. 9 –||0||2||5||4||0||1|
|Rd. 10 –||2||6||2||1||0||1|
|Rd. 11 –||3||1||4||0||0||4|
|Rd. 12 –||1||3||5||1||0||2|
|Rd. 13 –||4||3||4||1||0||0|
|Rd. 14 –||0||2||2||1||4||3|
|Rd. 15 –||0||1||2||1||6||2|
|Rd. 16 –||1||2||4||2||2||1|