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Thoughts From an Early Mock Draft
John Tuvey
Conducted: May 11, 2009
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Sure it’s early, but is it ever too early for a mock draft?

Of course, that question is rhetorical. Because of the time constraints inherent in the publishing process, the magazines that you’ll soon be seeing on your newsstands are holding their mock drafts now. And with anywhere from two to three months until it counts—and because you want to walk into your real draft as prepared as possible—there’s little doubt you’ve started the process of figuring out who you’d take where.

Last offseason I lost count of the number of mocks and industry drafts I participated in; suffice it to say that I got to the point that I was able to actually conduct a draft for one of my leagues while coaching one of my son’s football practices—armed with nothing but a cell phone, a pen, and my predraft list. While that team made the playoffs, it’s not the kind of drafting conditions I’d advise you seek out.

But I digress.

The 2009 fantasy mock season, for me at least, kicked off with an industry draft through my good friends at Fantasy Football Champs. The final results can be viewed here; I’ll also list them below along with my own thoughts on how each round progressed.

This draft was for a non-PPR performance-based scoring system (roughly 50% TDs, 50% yardage), It went 18 rounds with the following required: three QBs, five RBs, six WRs, two TEs, one K, and one Team D/ST. I had the eighth overall selection in this serpentine draft.

ROUND 1

Pick Ovr Pos Player
1.01 1 RB Adrian Peterson (MIN)
1.02 2 RB Michael Turner (ATL)
1.03 3 RB DeAngelo Williams (CAR)
1.04 4 RB Maurice Jones-Drew (JAX)
1.05 5 RB Chris Johnson (TEN)
1.06 6 RB Matt Forte (CHI)
1.07 7 WR Larry Fitzgerald (ARI)
1.08 8 RB Steven Jackson (STL)
1.09 9 RB Brandon Jacobs (NYG)
1.10 10 QB Drew Brees (NOS)
1.11 11 RB Steve Slaton (HOU)
1.12 12 RB Brian Westbrook (PHI)

I did not enjoy being in the eight spot, and I am certainly not sold on Steven Jackson as my pick here. I thought about Brandon Jacobs, but his ADP was falling into the third round so I thought I’d see if he’d still be on the board for my second pick; obviously, that didn’t work out so well. My early rankings suggest this is a good draft if you’re holding pick four or above; outside of AP, Turner, MoJo and Forte it gets messy. I could have taken Jacobs, Westbrook, or Portis instead of Jackson and felt about the same degree of confidence; it appears as if this will be an area of the draft board requiring further analysis.

ROUND 2

Pick Ovr Pos Player
2.01 13 RB Clinton Portis (WAS)
2.02 14 RB LaDainian Tomlinson (SDC)
2.03 15 RB Marion Barber (DAL)
2.04 16 WR Randy Moss (NEP)
2.05 17 WR Andre Johnson (HOU)
2.06 18 RB Frank Gore (SFO)
2.07 19 WR Calvin Johnson (DET)
2.08 20 WR Reggie Wayne (IND)
2.09 21 QB Tom Brady (NEP)
2.10 22 WR Roddy White (ATL)
2.11 23 WR Steve Smith (CAR)
2.12 24 QB Peyton Manning (IND)

With four premium receivers in this draft—and a couple months left to figure out just how long I can wait before getting shut out of quality running backs—I debated between Andre and Calvin. Moss would have been in the conversation as well, but he went just ahead of my pick. I opted for Andre; now we’ll see if there are still backs to be had.

ROUND 3

Pick Ovr Pos Player
3.01 25 WR Anquan Boldin (ARI)
3.02 26 WR Greg Jennings (GBP)
3.03 27 WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh (SEA)
3.04 28 WR Terrell Owens (BUF)
3.05 29 RB Ronnie Brown (MIA)
3.06 30 WR Marques Colston (NOS)
3.07 31 RB Ryan Grant (GBP)
3.08 32 QB Philip Rivers (SDC)
3.09 33 RB Pierre Thomas (NOS)
3.10 34 WR Dwayne Bowe (KCC)
3.11 35 WR Vincent Jackson (SDC)
3.12 36 WR Bernard Berrian (MIN)

Every year I tell myself I’m going to wait on quarterbacks… and then I get into the third or fourth round and a guy like Rivers is sitting there and… and… I just can’t help myself. Better to find out now just how deep a hole I’ll be digging myself if I go quarterback early; maybe the lesson will sink in by September.

ROUND 4

Pick Ovr Pos Player
4.01 37 RB Kevin Smith (DET)
4.02 38 TE Jason Witten (DAL)
4.03 39 RB Derrick Ward (TBB)
4.04 40 WR Roy Williams (DAL)
4.05 41 RB Willie Parker (PIT)
4.06 42 WR Wes Welker (NEP)
4.07 43 RB Reggie Bush (NOS)
4.08 44 WR Lee Evans (BUF)
4.09 45 RB Marshawn Lynch (BUF)
4.10 46 RB Darren McFadden (OAK)
4.11 47 RB Thomas Jones (NYJ)
4.12 48 RB Joseph Addai (IND)

Truth be told, none of the guys who went between Rivers and Parker interested me—at least in rounds three or four. Parker currently holds an ADP in the early sixth round, so I felt confident he’d be there after straying from the running back path in rounds two and three. I also thought about Addai or Jones here, then following with the Brown or Washington handcuff. However, the potential gutting of the Indy coaching staff has me concerned, and I still think there’s a chance Jones’ dissatisfaction with his contract turns into something more—like perhaps a golden opportunity for Shonn Greene.

ROUND 5

Pick Ovr Pos Player
5.01 49 WR Santonio Holmes (PIT)
5.02 50 QB Kurt Warner (ARI)
5.03 51 QB Tony Romo (DAL)
5.04 52 RB Knowshon Moreno (DEN)
5.05 53 RB Larry Johnson (KCC)
5.06 54 WR Brandon Marshall (DEN)
5.07 55 RB Jonathan Stewart (CAR)
5.08 56 WR Anthony Gonzalez (IND)
5.09 57 QB Aaron Rodgers (GBP)
5.10 58 WR Braylon Edwards (CLE)
5.11 59 WR Lance Moore (NOS)
5.12 60 WR Antonio Bryant (TBB)

Aaron Rodgers would have been the quarterback I targeted if I didn’t go early for Rivers, so I can start gauging where he might go off the board. I would have strongly considered Holmes or Marshall here, but I ended up with Gonzalez. What about those Colts worries? Think about it; if the playcalling is left to Peyton Manning, he’ll be throwing plenty. And with no Marv, Gonzo is a clear-cut second option.

ROUND 6

Pick Ovr Pos Player
6.01 61 TE Tony Gonzalez (ATL)
6.02 62 WR Eddie Royal (DEN)
6.03 63 WR DeSean Jackson (PHI)
6.04 64 RB Chris Wells (ARI)
6.05 65 RB LenDale White (TEN)
6.06 66 QB Jay Cutler (CHI)
6.07 67 TE Antonio Gates (SDC)
6.08 68 WR Hines Ward (PIT)
6.09 69 WR Chad Johnson (CIN)
6.10 70 WR Steve Breaston (ARI)
6.11 71 TE Dallas Clark (IND)
6.12 72 TE Kellen Winslow (TBB)

Thought about Gates. Thought more about Gates. Really thought long and hard about Gates. Ultimately, I decided to stockpile backs and wait until very late to see how tight ends would shake out. In retrospect, if this were a team I was taking into the regular season this would be the pick I most regret. White showing up for minicamp looking like he didn’t spend the entire offseason at the buffet makes me feel a little better.

ROUND 7

Pick Ovr Pos Player
7.01 73 RB Cedric Benson (CIN)
7.02 74 WR Michael Crabtree (SFO)
7.03 75 RB Darren Sproles (SDC)
7.04 76 TE Greg Olsen (CHI)
7.05 77 QB Matt Ryan (ATL)
7.06 78 QB Matt Schaub (HOU)
7.07 79 RB Ray Rice (BAL)
7.08 80 RB Felix Jones (DAL)
7.09 81 RB Donald Brown (IND)
7.10 82 RB Jamal Lewis (CLE)
7.11 83 QB Donovan McNabb (PHI)
7.12 84 QB Matt Cassel (KCC)

That’s four backs in seven rounds—a classic quantity over quality play, but I like the upside of all four. Jones was a game-breaker before getting hurt, and sans TO I’m feeling the Cowboys might find a few more carries to divvy up between Jones and MB3. Jamal Lewis was also a consideration, seeing as the Browns still don’t have a clear heir to his throne. Looks like somebody is projecting Ray Rice to garner the bulk of the carries in Baltimore.

ROUND 8

Pick Ovr Pos Player
8.01 85 WR Donald Driver (GBP)
8.02 86 RB LeSean McCoy (PHI)
8.03 87 TE Owen Daniels (HOU)
8.04 88 WR Kevin Walter (HOU)
8.05 89 RB Rashard Mendenhall (PIT)
8.06 90 WR Derrick Mason (BAL)
8.07 91 QB Ben Roethlisberger (PIT)
8.08 92 TE Chris Cooley (WAS)
8.09 93 WR Chris Chambers (SDC)
8.10 94 WR Santana Moss (WAS)
8.11 95 RB Leon Washington (NYJ)
8.12 96 RB Ricky Williams (MIA)

I only had a couple backs on the board ahead of Mendenhall, so it felt like getting the handcuff was the prudent move. Interesting to note that the back half of the Jets’ handcuff also went in this round, while the Colts’ cuff went off the board last round. Cooley was pretty tempting here, but I’m holding firm on playing the waiting game with tight ends to let others set the bar.

ROUND 9

Pick Ovr Pos Player
9.01 97 WR Kevin Curtis (PHI)
9.02 98 WR Devin Hester (CHI)
9.03 99 RB Timothy Hightower (ARI)
9.04 100 DF Minnesota Vikings (MIN)
9.05 101 WR Jerricho Cotchery (NYJ)
9.06 102 RB Willis McGahee (BAL)
9.07 103 WR Laveranues Coles (CIN)
9.08 104 QB Carson Palmer (CIN)
9.09 105 RB Ahmad Bradshaw (NYG)
9.10 106 QB Eli Manning (NYG)
9.11 107 RB Le'Ron McClain (BAL)
9.12 108 RB Jerious Norwood (ATL)

I have a pretty good feel for what most of the guys in this draft like to do, and I know most of them are inclined to wait on quarterbacks. But I don’t see getting Carson Palmer in the ninth round as something I should get used to. If so, I certainly won’t be taking Rivers in Round 3. After seeing Ray Rice go off the board in Round 7, the scramble is on for the remaining members of the committee that produced one of the NFL’s top rushing teams last year, then added Matt Birk and Michael Oher in the offseason. Sounds as if McClain is already griping about being moved back to fullback, so at present it’s a situation I’m more than happy to avoid.

ROUND 10

Pick Ovr Pos Player
10.01 109 WR Ted Ginn Jr. (MIA)
10.02 110 WR Patrick Crayton (DAL)
10.03 111 WR Donnie Avery (STL)
10.04 112 TE Visanthe Shiancoe (MIN)
10.05 113 WR Torry Holt (JAX)
10.06 114 TE John Carlson (SEA)
10.07 115 RB Laurence Maroney (NEP)
10.08 116 RB Fred Jackson (BUF)
10.09 117 RB Fred Taylor (NEP)
10.10 118 TE Zach Miller (OAK)
10.11 119 QB Matt Hasselbeck (SEA)
10.12 120 WR Deion Branch (SEA)

All that running back garnering has its price; I missed out on Donnie Avery by two picks and now have Torry Holt as my third receiver. What did we learn? Don’t wait this long to get a third receiver. I mean, I think David Garrard and the Jags bounce back a bit this year, but I’d feel a lot better not having to rely on Holt’s knees holding up and Jacksonville producing a viable passing game for the first time since Jimmy Smith retired.

ROUND 11

Pick Ovr Pos Player
11.01 121 TE Jeremy Shockey (NOS)
11.02 122 DF Pittsburgh Steelers (PIT)
11.03 123 WR Percy Harvin (MIN)
11.04 124 RB Dominic Rhodes (BUF)
11.05 125 TE Dustin Keller (NYJ)
11.06 126 RB Julius Jones (SEA)
11.07 127 RB Earnest Graham (TBB)
11.08 128 WR Jeremy Maclin (PHI)
11.09 129 WR Mark Bradley (KCC)
11.10 130 RB Chester Taylor (MIN)
11.11 131 QB Joe Flacco (BAL)
11.12 132 QB Kyle Orton (DEN)

Carlson, Miller, and Keller were all tight ends I was targeting in this range, but clearly I’ve waited to long. Besides, at this juncture it’s splitting hairs on whether you want three, four, or five touchdowns from the position; better to take a shot on the rookie wideout who landed in the best situation, especially given how long I waited to pick a third WR.

ROUND 12

Pick Ovr Pos Player
12.01 133 WR Mark Clayton (BAL)
12.02 134 WR Brian Robiskie (CLE)
12.03 135 DF Green Bay Packers (GBP)
12.04 136 WR Miles Austin (DAL)
12.05 137 WR Justin Gage (TEN)
12.06 138 WR Domenik Hixon (NYG)
12.07 139 TE Kevin Boss (NYG)
12.08 140 DF Chicago Bears (CHI)
12.09 141 WR Josh Morgan (SFO)
12.10 142 DF Baltimore Ravens (BAL)
12.11 143 RB Andre Brown (NYG)
12.12 144 QB Jake Delhomme (CAR)

Gage carries a Round 16 ADP, but I think he projects out much better than that; he’s been the best receiver on my board for a couple rounds, so I’m okay taking him maybe a round or two early. Also, another tight end option goes off the board; I should probably think about addressing that position soon.

ROUND 13

Pick Ovr Pos Player
13.01 145 DF Tennessee Titans (TEN)
13.02 146 QB Trent Edwards (BUF)
13.03 147 QB David Garrard (JAX)
13.04 148 QB Chad Pennington (MIA)
13.05 149 QB Jason Campbell (WAS)
13.06 150 WR Michael Jenkins (ATL)
13.07 151 DF New York Giants (NYG)
13.08 152 DF Philadelphia Eagles (PHI)
13.09 153 RB Michael Bush (OAK)
13.10 154 TE Heath Miller (PIT)
13.11 155 DF San Diego Chargers (SDC)
13.12 156 DF Carolina Panthers (CAR)

The defenses were starting to fly off the board, and I know some of the guys I’m sitting on don’t require a pick here so I opted for one of my favorites this year. They already love to blitz, and when you add Maclin and Ellis Hobbs to the return game… I’m in.

ROUND 14

Pick Ovr Pos Player
14.01 157 QB Brady Quinn (CLE)
14.02 158 TE Brandon Pettigrew (DET)
14.03 159 WR Hakeem Nicks (NYG)
14.04 160 TE Tony Scheffler (DEN)
14.05 161 TE Shawn Nelson (BUF)
14.06 162 QB Shaun Hill (SFO)
14.07 163 WR Isaac Bruce (SFO)
14.08 164 WR Greg Camarillo (MIA)
14.09 165 WR Nate Washington (TEN)
14.10 166 WR Nate Burleson (SEA)
14.11 167 RB Justin Fargas (OAK)
14.12 168 RB Brandon Jackson (GBP)

My plan for a pair of rookie tight ends was foiled when Pettigrew went three picks prior. I’m not sure why Nelson isn’t getting much love; he has a clear path to the starting gig, and Bills OC Turk Schoenert finally has a Rodney Holman-esque tight end that Trent Edwards is sure to grow fond of.

ROUND 15

Pick Ovr Pos Player
15.01 169 WR Bobby Engram (KCC)
15.02 170 K Stephen Gostkowski (NEP)
15.03 171 K Jason Elam (ATL)
15.04 172 QB Sage Rosenfels (MIN)
15.05 173 QB Kerry Collins (TEN)
15.06 174 QB Marc Bulger (STL)
15.07 175 WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (OAK)
15.08 176 TE Brent Celek (PHI)
15.09 177 WR Devin Thomas (WAS)
15.10 178 RB Jerome Harrison (CLE)
15.11 179 QB Daunte Culpepper (DET)
15.12 180 WR Josh Reed (BUF)

Obviously you don’t love your tight ends when you wait 14 rounds to start drafting them; that said, Philly still runs a West Coast offense and pass-catching tight ends still factor into that scheme. It boils down to this: do I want to spend the sixth-rounder on Gates or attempt to cobble together 75% of Gates’ numbers from playing matchup poker with Nelson and Celek?

ROUND 16

Pick Ovr Pos Player
16.01 181 RB Correll Buckhalter (DEN)
16.02 182 WR Bryant Johnson (DET)
16.03 183 K Ryan Longwell (MIN)
16.04 184 DST Oakland Raiders (OAK)
16.05 185 QB Mark Sanchez (NYJ)
16.06 186 K Neil Rackers (ARI)
16.07 187 WR Laurent Robinson (STL)
16.08 188 RB Sammy Morris (NEP)
16.09 189 WR Devery Henderson (NOS)
16.10 190 TE Vernon Davis (SFO)
16.11 191 WR Jason Avant (PHI)
16.12 192 WR Steve Smith (NYG)

System says take three quarterbacks, and of the ones left on the board Sanchez has the most upside.

ROUND 17

Pick Ovr Pos Player
17.01 193 QB JaMarcus Russell (OAK)
17.02 194 TE Donald Lee (GBP)
17.03 195 QB Matthew Stafford (DET)
17.04 196 K Rob Bironas (TEN)
17.05 197 WR Jordy Nelson (GBP)
17.06 198 DST New York Jets (NYJ)
17.07 199 QB Derek Anderson (CLE)
17.08 200 WR Austin Collie (IND)
17.09 201 K Sebastian Janikowski (OAK)
17.10 202 WR Davone Bess (MIA)
17.11 203 RB Jamaal Charles (KCC)
17.12 204 K Mason Crosby (GBP)

There are at least five kickers I’d still settle for, so I can take Collie here; call it Gonzo insurance or a longshot bet that he could put up Brandon Stokley-type numbers as the slot guy in Indy’s offense.

ROUND 18

Pick Ovr Pos Player
18.01 205 TE Anthony Fasano (MIA)
18.02 206 K Nick Folk (DAL)
18.03 207 QB Alex Smith (SFO)
18.04 208 QB Chad Henne (MIA)
18.05 209 K Nate Kaeding (SDC)
18.06 210 TE L.J. Smith (BAL)
18.07 211 K Adam Vinatieri (IND)
18.08 212 K Robbie Gould (CHI)
18.09 213 TE Todd Heap (BAL)
18.10 214 RB Glen Coffee (SFO)
18.11 215 WR Muhsin Muhammad (CAR)
18.12 216 K Matt Prater (DEN)

It was Kaeding or David Akers, so I went for the guy with the better weather.

Final result, in a 12-team league:

QBs – Rivers, Palmer, Sanchez
RBs – S. Jackson, W. Parker, L. White, F. Jones, R. Mendenhall
WRs – A. Johnson, A. Gonzalez, Holt, Maclin, Gage, Collie
TEs – S. Nelson, Celek
K – Kaeding
D/ST – Eagles

Good running back depth, Deep at quarterback (maybe too deep?), more hopeful than set at wide receiver, and thin at tight end. Plenty of lessons to be learned… and plenty of times (and mocks) left to learn them.

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