Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Cory Bonini

Fantasy football mock draft series: May takeaways

It is mid-May, and fantasy football drafts are gaining steam. A recently hosted industry mock is the source for this recap. Out of respect for the hosts of this draft, no reference will be made to its identity so the content remains fresh on their end, nor will the entire draft results be published here.

The blurbs about my team below were provided to the draft host and will appear in a magazine as part of a larger evaluation of the draft. Before getting into my individual picks (we didn’t select kickers or defensive teams), here are a few generalized observations from a 12-team, PPR draft.

  • In the 2021 iteration, every Round 1 pick was a running back, minus a lone receiver (Tyreek Hill) chosen at No. 11 overall. Last year, we saw seven running backs and five receivers, including Cooper Kupp going at No. 2. This time around, five receivers, including the first three picks, six running backs, and Travis Kelce went in the opening stanza.
  • Five RBs came off the board in Round 2 in 2021’s draft, which mostly consisted of receivers. Last year, a half-dozen backs, two tight ends, and a quartet of receivers made up the second. The most recent one featured eight receivers, three RBs, and TE Mark Andrews.
  • The 2021 draft’s first QB came off the board in late Round 4 (Patrick Mahomes), and Josh Allen was taken with the last pick of Round 5 in ’22. We saw Allen go 27th this year, while three more went in Round 3. Only four total passers went in the first 50 choices, whereas seven went in the same range last season.
  • In the first 100 picks of the 2021 draft, 9 QBs, 37 RBs, 44 WRs and 10 TEs were taken. In last year’s version, we watched 6 QBs, 39 RBs, 45 WRs and 10 tight ends — no drastic changes. This time around, however, 11 QBs, 37 RBs, 44 WRs and 8 TEs were chosen. Drafters have been pretty consistent year over year in terms of positional distribution.
  • Running back atop the draft is a dicey bet this season. There are more uncertain situations that sure things, and it’s clear gamers are leaning heavily on elite wideouts in 2023. Factor that into your draft plans but be prepared to pivot as needed. Going with two receivers right off the top should set you up well to build a reliable stable of running backs in Rounds 3-6.
  • Quarterback remains quite deep, too, with a viable starter being available into the 13th round. Tight end remains a little top-heavy, just like the last few years. Following the consensus top-four TEs — all of whom went in the first six rounds — the position gets really dicey. If you’re not comfortable playing the matchups, make sure to secure one of Mark Andrews, Travis Kelce, T.J. Hockenson or George Kittle. The next tier of TEs — Darren Waller, Kyle Pitts, Dalton Schultz and Evan Engram — all come with significant concerns.

Here’s a snapshot of the first 10 rounds broken down by number of positional picks:

1st: 6 RBs, 5 WRs, 1 TE
2nd: 3 RBs, 8 WRs, 1 TE
3rd: 1 QB, 4 RBs, 7 WRs
4th: 2 QBs, 4 RBs, 6 WRs
5th: 2 QBs, 5 RBs, 3 WRs, 2 TEs
6th: 3 QBs, 3 RBs, 5 WRs, 1 TE
7th: 3 QBs, 4 RBs, 3 WRs, 2 TEs
8th: 5 RBs, 6 WRs, 1 TE
9th: 1 QB, 5 RBs, 4 WRs, 2 TEs
10th: 1 QB, 5 RBs, 5 WRs, 1 TE

My team

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

We were asked to write 35 words per pick to give a little insight as to our draft thoughts:

1:06) WR Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams: He bounces between my WR2 and No. 3. If he and Matthew Stafford are healthy, there’s no reason Kupp won’t return on a No. 6 overall investment in PPR. A line of 120-1,500-12 is within reach.

2:07) WR Garrett Wilson, New York Jets: Wilson was impressive as a rookie and now gets a massive upgrade at quarterback. He easily should be Aaron Rodgers‘ No. 1 target and is poised to take his game to a new level in Year 2.

3:06) RB Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans: Henry isn’t an ideal RB1 in PPR, especially in his age-29 season, but he is the offense until proven otherwise. The line improved, and Ryan Tannehill returns, so hopefully there’s one last strong campaign in the tank.

4:07) RB Jahmyr Gibbs, Detroit Lions: Gibbs may not have a huge workload, though his receiving chops and David Montgomery‘s lackluster style could have him in the RB2 conversation sooner than later. The O-line is strong, and Gibbs’ efficiency is alluring.

5:06) RB Rachaad White, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: I debated a WR here, but the uncertainty of Jahmyr Gibbs and Derrick Henry‘s age swayed me toward White’s dual-threat nature. It may not be pretty in terms of efficiency, but he’ll get the rock aplenty.

6:07) WR Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Justin Fields and Trevor Lawrence were my targets, so I pivoted to Evans as a solid WR3 consolation. Even with Baker Mayfield, Evans still has a shot at 1,000 yards and seven-plus TDs.

7:06) QB Aaron Rodgers, New York Jets: Having missed out on my preferred QB targets, I’ll rely on Rodgers playing with a chip on his shoulder in his first season with the Jets. New York boasts plenty of weapons in a system Rodgers knows intimately.

8:07) WR Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints: I banked on Kadarius Toney and/or Chig Okonkwo making it back to me in Round 9, but both went right after this one. It all comes down to Thomas’ health, and he’s a fine WR4 gamble.

9:06) TE Dalton Schultz, Houston Texans: Since I missed out on Okonkwo, Schultz was a pleasant surprise to see here in PPR. While he may not be a prolific TD scorer, Houston’s QB situation and suspect WR corps means abundant volume.

10:07) RB Tyjae Spears, Tennessee Titans: I expect Spears to lock down the top backup job after Hassan Haskins failed to impress last year. Should Derrick Henry miss time, this handcuff is a do-all back with RB2 upside.

11:06) WR Romeo Doubs, Green Bay Packers: Doubs as my fifth receiver is well worth the risk associated with Jordan Love being a largely unknown commodity entering his first year as a starter. Green Bay’s No. 2 should be good for a 60-800-5 floor.

12:07) RB Zamir White, Las Vegas Raiders: White’s RB2 competition is unimpressive. Purely a gamble on Josh Jacobs breaking down following a monster workload in 2022, White has at least weekly flex utility should the Alabama standout fall to injury.

13:06) QB Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins: Top-10 returns are in play if Tagovailoa can avoid getting his bell rung yet again. The weapons are prolific, and he’s a high-upside QB2 behind my starter, Aaron Rodgers.

14:07) WR Kyle Philips, Tennessee Titans: A total flier as my WR6, Philips’ ball skills and role from the slot intrigues me in PPR scoring formats. I can see a winding, uneven path to 50-plus catches and occasional lineup utility.

Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Bonus draft recap!

As part of the magazine mock draft participation agreement, we also took part in a non-PPR version. Here’s my team review for that one:

1:03) RB Saquon Barkley, New York Giants: He has a high enough ceiling to finish as the RB1, and the passing game still isn’t strong enough to suggest Brian Daboll will be comfortable not leaning on Barkley. His 2022 workload is my only concern.

2:10) WR A.J. Brown, Philadelphia Eagles: Philly is stacked, but the passing game goes through this man. He scored 11 times in 2022, and I won’t be surprised to see that increase as Jalen Hurts continues to grow as a passer.

3:03) RB Rhamondre Stevenson, New England Patriots: There are several backs who could cut into Stevenson’s overall volume, especially as a receiver, but he’s easily the top back around the stripe with Damien Harris gone. A dozen scores are within reach.

4:10) QB Justin Fields, Chicago Bears: I rarely draft a QB this early. But in non-PPR scoring, he’s basically another starting running back and still has a good shot at improving as a passer thanks to upgrades and maturation.

5:03) WR Christian Watson, Green Bay Packers: I’m high on Jordan Love at least being above average. If that’s going to happen, Watson will be a top-24 fantasy option. His game makes him the best bet for leading Green Bay WRs in TDs.

6:10) WR Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Yes, his QB situation stinks, but the track record and scoring prowess are strong enough to justify landing him as a No. 3. In Baker We Trust? At least enough for seven TDs to Evans!

7:03) RB Brian Robinson Jr., Washington Commanders: I’m not particularly fond of Eric Bieniemy’s play calling, and Sam Howell makes me nerves. However, Robinson’s goal-line skills put him in play for double-digit scores, and he enters Year 2 healthy, unlike last summer.

8:10) WR Gabe Davis, Buffalo Bills: Davis has flashed a number of times but has yet to put it together for a full season. Warts and all, a career rate of a TD every 5.9 grabs is tough to ignore in non-PPR.

9:03) TE Chigoziem Okonkwo, Tennessee Titans: Okonkwo has all of the tools necessary to shine, and the Titans’ lack of proven receiving outlets, coupled with the possibility of a rookie QB taking over, make him the No. 2 target behind Treylon Burks.

10:10) RB Tank Bigsby, Jacksonville Jaguars: What’s there not to like about a running back named “Tank” in a TD-heavy format?!? Kidding aside, Travis Etienne isn’t built to shoulder a full load, and Bigsby is the best short-area back on the roster.

11:03) WR Elijah Moore, Cleveland Browns: Touchdowns probably won’t be plentiful, though he scored five times in as many games to close out 2021. The quarterback situation is an upgrade in Cleveland vs. his past QBs, and this late he’s a fine WR5.

12:10) RB Tyjae Spears, Tennessee Titans: How many more years can Derrick Henry completely carry the offense? Spears would’ve been an early-round pick if not for two ACL tears. He’s a complete back with major upside in a run-based system.

13:03) WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kansas City Chiefs: The veteran hasn’t scored much over the past two years, but he was a red-zone threat in 2022 and found paydirt 14 times in his first couple of seasons. He’s a steal this late.

14:10) QB Jordan Love, Green Bay Packers: Having two QBs with a Week 14 is irrelevant to me. Athletic and well-prepared, Love has weapons, a sound line, RBs to rely on, and offers QB1 potential. I like him for a mid-teens finish.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.