CBS SportsLine's first mock draft of the 2007 offseason is in the books. Some readers loved that we did this while others questioned why. Why?! Let's be honest: Is there ever a wrong time to do a mock draft?
(Weddings were the only time I could think of, and that's cause I know from experience.)
Our crew had a blast drafting even though we're closer to baseball season than football season. Already we began debating over all sorts of issues, such as why a restricted free agent RB was a better choice than a mainstay in Dallas and a pair of Pro Bowl receivers, why a pair of running backs who barely topped 1,000 rush yards were still first-round worthy, and which running backs are going to be steals as middle-round picks.
Suffice to say, it's going to be a fun offseason. Here's a round-by-round, blow-by-blow recap of our first mock draft of the offseason (which means that there will be more to come)! Round 1
1 Ellen Levy LaDainian Tomlinson (RB SD)
2 Dave Richard Steven Jackson (RB STL)
3 David Gonos Larry Johnson (RB KC)
4 Ron Davis Shaun Alexander (RB SEA)
5 Eric Mack Frank Gore (RB SF)
6 J. Darin Darst Rudi Johnson (RB CIN)
7 Peter Madden Brian Westbrook (RB PHI)
8 Sergio Gonzalez Willie Parker (RB PIT)
9 George Maselli Peyton Manning (QB IND)
10 Jamey Eisenberg Ronnie Brown (RB MIA)
11 Michael Hurcomb Edgerrin James (RB ARI)
12 Daniel Dobish Joseph Addai (RB IND)
The two surprises here: Steven Jackson over Larry Johnson, and Ronnie Brown and Edgerrin James over a number of other players.
I took Jackson over Johnson because Jackson is younger and stepped up his receiving game in 2006 -- enough to the point where he totaled more yards than Johnson. I'm not so concerned over LJ breaking down physically after logging over 425 touches, but the breaking down of his O-line is something that bothers me. With Will Shields possibly retiring and both tackle spots seemingly unstable, the Chiefs could find running tough to come by. And, coach Herm Edwards has already stated that he expects Michael Bennett (or possibly Priest Holmes) to take on a few more carries next season.
Both Jamey Eisenberg and Michael Hurcomb, respectively, cited the new coaching regimes in Miami and Arizona, respectively, as reasons for a rebound in production from both Brown and James. "In his first year as coordinator, (new Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt) took the 31st-ranked run offense and turned it into the league's second best," Hurcomb said. "Also, Willie Parker has gone from virtual unknown to Fantasy hero, and that has a large part to do with Whisenhunt. Based on the fact that he took a guy like Parker and made him into an All-Pro gives me goose bumps in thinking what he can do to turn around Edge's career." You can basically apply the same concept to Brown, using Cam Cameron (who coached LT for five years), though Eisenberg did add that Ricky Williams' likely return does complicate Brown's status a little bit.
As for the Peyton Manning pick, expect to see him go around ninth overall in all drafts, like George Maselli took him here. "I've never had the big, meat-cutting lug before," Maselli said. "In a league I was in last fall, Peyton went No. 1 overall, a pick met by universal derision and all forms of dissing. That dude, who shall remain nameless, won the league over the gent who scored LT at No. 3 overall. Underrate the long-necked one at your own peril." Round 2
13 Daniel Dobish Reggie Bush (RB NO)
14 Michael Hurcomb Drew Brees (QB NO)
15 Jamey Eisenberg Chester Taylor (RB MIN)
16 George Maselli Deuce McAllister (RB NO)
17 Sergio Gonzalez Carson Palmer (QB CIN)
18 Peter Madden Clinton Portis (RB WAS)
19 J. Darin Darst Maurice Jones-Drew (RB JAC)
20 Eric Mack Willis McGahee (RB BUF)
21 Ron Davis Tom Brady (QB NE)
22 David Gonos Laurence Maroney (RB NE)
23 Dave Richard Travis Henry (RB TEN)
24 Ellen Levy Cadillac Williams (RB TB)
There's a lot of intriguing picks here, but the one that sticks out the most was the selection of Tom Brady 21st overall, going ahead of several passers, including most notably Marc Bulger. "I look for consistency from the RB and QB positions," Ron said, "and although Brady might not post those 40-plus point games, for the most part, he is reliable. I've had Bulger in the past and he is too inconsistent for me." I don't disagree with Ron, but I think he could have snagged Brady in Round 3 or 4.
If you pick early in a draft, be ready to "settle" for a No. 2 running back if you're going to go RB-RB to lead off your selections. "Selecting Cadillac Williams with the final pick in the second round was done out of necessity," said Ellen Levy, who did get Tomlinson first overall. "I desperately needed a No. 2 running back and there wasn't much to choose from since, not surprisingly, 19 of the first 23 picks came at that position. There wasn't any other running back I was interested in at that time."
But most surprising of all: Two rounds, zero wide receivers taken. Don't expect this to happen in your drafts, but if it does, you'll see this in Round 3 ... Round 3
25 Ellen Levy Chad Johnson (WR CIN)
26 Dave Richard Marvin Harrison (WR IND)
27 David Gonos Torry Holt (WR STL)
28 Ron Davis Larry Fitzgerald (WR ARI)
29 Eric Mack Reggie Wayne (WR IND)
30 J. Darin Darst Steve Smith (WR CAR)
31 Peter Madden Terrell Owens (WR DAL)
32 Sergio Gonzalez Ahman Green (RB GB)
33 George Maselli Roy Williams (WR DET)
34 Jamey Eisenberg Anquan Boldin (WR ARI)
35 Michael Hurcomb DeAngelo Williams (RB CAR)
36 Daniel Dobish Antonio Gates (TE SD)
From zero wide receivers to nine in 12 picks -- and that doesn't include TE Antonio Gates! While you won't see this many wideouts taken, expect Round 3 to be more WR-heavy than Rounds 1 and 2 in standard-scoring leagues. That's going to help owners who have an early pick and get one of those stud running backs. They'll get a stud wide receiver, too.
Note that two of the owners who opted to take a quarterback in Rounds 1 and 2 went running back here. Another note: Because the running backs went so fast in the first 24 picks, pickings got slim on them earlier than expected. Guys like Laurence Maroney, Travis Henry and Cadillac Williams are expected to be taken in Rounds 3 and 4, while receivers like Chad Johnson, Marvin Harrison and the like will creep into Round 2. Round 4
37 Daniel Dobish Vince Young (QB TEN)
38 Michael Hurcomb Plaxico Burress (WR NYG)
39 Jamey Eisenberg Javon Walker (WR DEN)
40 George Maselli Michael Turner (RB SD)
41 Sergio Gonzalez Marques Colston (WR NO)
42 Peter Madden Marion Barber (RB DAL)
43 J. Darin Darst Brandon Jacobs (RB NYG)
44 Eric Mack T.J. Houshmandzadeh (WR CIN)
45 Ron Davis Julius Jones (RB DAL)
46 David Gonos Andre Johnson (WR HOU)
47 Dave Richard Donald Driver (WR GB)
48 Ellen Levy Darrell Jackson (WR SEA)
A lot of interesting picks here, including five guys that would have been lucky to be picked as anything more than a late-round pick at all in 2006 drafts: Vince Young, Michael Turner, Marques Colston, Marion Barber and Brandon Jacobs.
Daniel Dobish's pick of Young seemed high, but you have to consider where Dobish was picking. Would Young make it back to him at the end of Round 5? Probably not. Dobish had to have wanted Young so bad that he spent an earlier pick on him. Considering Young's potential, I can't fault him for it.
Turner at No. 40 was also high, but Maselli had his reasons. "Don't get me wrong; this guy could be a home run if he becomes somebody's feature back," Maselli said, mentioning the Giants as a possible suitor. Of course, J. Darin Darst hopes that the Giants go with someone they already have in Jacobs.
Take a look at the last three picks of Round 4: Andre Johnson, Donald Driver and Darrell Jackson. All three of them are in-the-bag 1,000-yard receivers. Because of the potential-laden picks taken earlier in the round, Johnson, Driver and Jackson turned into no-brainer selections. This should be the norm in drafts so long as some owners are hot to trot for the guys with potential instead of the guys who have done it all before and are nearly sure things.
And who got them? The teams that picked first, second and third overall. Round 5
49 Ellen Levy Donovan McNabb (QB PHI)
50 Dave Richard Michael Vick (QB ATL)
51 David Gonos Warrick Dunn (RB ATL)
52 Ron Davis Jeremy Shockey (TE NYG)
53 Eric Mack Marc Bulger (QB STL)
54 J. Darin Darst Hines Ward (WR PIT)
55 Peter Madden Donte' Stallworth (WR PHI)
56 Sergio Gonzalez Laveranues Coles (WR NYJ)
57 George Maselli Corey Dillon (RB NE)
58 Jamey Eisenberg Lee Evans (WR BUF)
59 Michael Hurcomb Jamal Lewis (RB BAL)
60 Daniel Dobish Randy Moss (WR OAK) Round 6
61 Daniel Dobish Jay Cutler (QB DEN)
62 Michael Hurcomb Tony Gonzalez (TE KC)
63 Jamey Eisenberg Leon Washington (RB NYJ)
64 George Maselli Santana Moss (WR WAS)
65 Sergio Gonzalez Thomas Jones (RB CHI)
66 Peter Madden Kevin Jones (RB DET)
67 J. Darin Darst Todd Heap (TE BAL)
68 Eric Mack Reggie Brown (WR PHI)
69 Ron Davis Mike Bell (RB DEN)
70 David Gonos Chris Cooley (TE WAS)
71 Dave Richard Cedric Benson (RB CHI)
72 Ellen Levy Kellen Winslow (TE CLE)
Quite a bit to look at through these rounds. The highlights are Marc Bulger slipping to 53rd overall despite having a career year in 2006, Randy Moss not slipping past Round 5 despite having a career-worst year, and Kevin Jones falling to Round 6 despite rumors swirling that he's going to miss half of the season.
"I really took him reluctantly," Eric Mack said of drafting Bulger. "(The Rams) really need another weapon on offense, and I am not convinced Bulger isn't just a product of Holt's excellence. If Holt is past his prime and/or breaks down, we could be looking back at Bulger as a complete bust of a pick in Fantasy Football 2007." Don't take Bulger reluctantly if you get the chance -- especially in Round 5 after several quarterbacks are off the board. For whatever reason, Bulger isn't a popular pick in Fantasy drafts. Still, he's capable of a bonanza season statwise, which makes him fine as a starting QB to focus on after the popular names are off the board.
You need to use a little foresight when considering Moss, who is probably going to be shipped out of Oakland this offseason. Does it even matter where he will go? A team that needs a top-flight wide receiver will gamble on Moss, making him their No. 1 target. So long as the quarterback can throw a good deep ball, Moss will be picked right around here in drafts.
As for Kevin Jones, the jury is still out on his recovery, according to the man who picked him. "I figured we were so far out from the start of the 2007 season that pinpointing exactly when he would be back seemed somewhat difficult," Peter Madden said. "Conflicting reports and how well he produced last season were convincing enough for me to spend a sixth-round pick on him." Lessons learned
Analyzing the rest of the draft might leave some of you sleepy, so if you want to look over Rounds 7 and on and have a question or comment about what you see, drop a line.
- On picking first, Ellen Levy said: "Tomlinson is the clear No. 1 pick in this year's fantasy draft and he can almost single-handedly carry a team into the playoffs. That's certainly a huge advantage (in picking first), one that few would turn down. But everything hinges on his remaining healthy since selecting first in a 12-team league leaves slim pickings for a No. 2 back late in the second round. It's only worth it if the top pick is head and shoulders above the rest -- and Tomlinson is."
- On picking fourth -- just outside of the Tomlinson/Johnson/Jackson zone -- Ron Davis said: "I liked it a lot, especially since I got a fantastic RB in the first round (Shaun Alexander). I am happy to pick anywhere in the top 5 so that I can get a running back to build my team around."
- On picking sixth -- just outside of the top-five RB zone -- J. Darin Darst said: "I hated having the No. 6 pick in the draft. I knew I wasn't going to get one of the elites, but am a big fan of Rudi Johnson. The only thing difference I might have made was taking Willie Parker ahead of Rudi Johnson in the first round."
- On picking 12th, Dan Dobish felt that he had a good spot to take value-based picks and didn't mind picking a player too soon (Vince Young a perfect example). Landing Joseph Addai and Reggie Bush in the first round gave him a pair of second-year running backs who are expected to see at least 15 touches per game. Not every owner in the league has that. If you're picking this late, don't fear reaching a little bit for a player you want since it will be a while until you can pick again.
- In closing, the primary lesson learned from the Earliest Mock Fantasy Football Draft Ever is, the closer you can get to picking first overall, the better. If you pick first, second or third, you're guaranteed LaDainian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson or Steven Jackson. If you pick fourth or fifth, you're guaranteed Shaun Alexander or Frank Gore. Picking anywhere after that could be messy. And believe me, with the NFL turning into a RB-by-committee league, getting the guys who will get 20-plus touches per game will become the ultimate priority next season.