Mock Draft: Rookie Keepers
Roy Williams is a big piece of Detroit's offensive resurgence.
By Court E. Mann, Associate Editor
May 11, 2004 4:00 AM ET
Now that all the NFL draft speculation is over, the real fun begins. Over the next several months, the rookies will attend their first minicamps, endure countless acts of humility and hazing, and eventually battle for depth-chart positioning. However, as an owner in a keeper league, you unfortunately do not have the luxury of kicking back and waiting patiently for those outcomes.
With your rookie keeper draft approaching rapidly, now is the time to assess the destinations, residences, and opportunities into which the NFL's first-year phenoms have been thrust. Luckily, you're wise enough to assign us the homework. Below you will find a mock draft of 10 teams as they select, in order, the top rookies of last month's draft for ownership in a long-term keeper league.
Team Spears is on the clock…
1. Team Spears:
Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
Comment: The Giants gave up a quarterback who some think is better, plus three other draft picks, to get Manning—largely because of his pedigree. If he's even close to the quarterback that Peyton is and Archie was, he's easily the top keeper in this rookie class.
2. Team Aguilera:
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Comment: This is where rookie keeper drafts depart drastically from normal parliamentary procedure. Big Ben may not play a down this season in Pittsburgh, but most scouts feel he has more upside than Manning and Philip Rivers. He's bigger, stronger, and more athletic than both.
3. Team Duff:
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals
Comment: Dennis Green knows a thing or two about developing wide receivers and productive fantasy offenses. No matter how you feel about Josh McCown, an offense built around Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin is exactly the type of long-term investment you want to make.
4. Team Lohan:
Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis Rams
Comment: He's not the top rookie back for the upcoming season, but Jackson is one (predictable) Faulk injury away from being the feature back in the Greatest Show on Turf. That bodes well for the highest-regarded runner in the class, considering how productive no-names like Lamar Gordon and Arlen Harris have fared in it with Faulk out.
5. Team Simpson:
Roy Williams, WR, Detroit Lions
Comment: There's something brewing in Detroit, and it's not just the rotten rubbish along Eight Mile. The Lions have all the pieces in place with Williams, fellow wideout Charles Rogers, quarterback Joey Harrington, running back Kevin Jones, and offensive-minded coach Steve Mariucci. The bet here is that Roy emerges as the top fantasy player of the above.
6. Team Barton:
Kellen Winslow Jr., TE, Cleveland Browns
Comment: The fishing for receivers and rushers gets a little murky at this point, so why not take a veritable lock at an extremely scarce position? Winslow could be a top-four tight end this season, which provides you with an immediate contributor as well as a long-term fixture.
7. Team Olsen:
Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers
Comment: Make fun of Elisha's draft-day demands all you want, but Rivers' long-term residence in San Diego definitely clouds his keeper value; the team has had only four winning seasons in the last 20 years and none since 1995. As of right now, his shoddy offensive line and lackluster set of receiving weapons makes it impossible for him to go any higher.
8. Team Bynes:
Kevin Jones, RB, Detroit Lions
Comment: The Detroit running game was absolutely dreadful last season, prompting Mooch to trade up for an additional first-round pick to grab Jones. It's a perfect fit; the former Virginia Tech burner will play at least 10 games per season on turf, and he's a solid bet to carry the load for years to come as the Roar gets restored.
9. Team Johansson:
Reggie Williams, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
Comment: While we're on the subject of improving offenses, we'd be remiss not to mention the Jags. The draft-day trade of Kevin Johnson to Baltimore only demonstrates how much Jacksonville believes in Williams, and he has the size (6-3, 223) to be an ideal fantasy target for quarterback Byron Leftwich.
10. Team Moore:
Julius Jones, RB, Dallas Cowboys
Comment: You have to like a talent like Jones in a system like the Tuna's. He's our top rookie in terms of immediate fantasy impact next season—and if he can handle Parcells' tough love—he'll be a productive fantasy back for many years to come.
11. Team Moore:
Michael Jenkins, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Comment: Something about having a 6-4, 217-pound receiver in an offense featuring Michael Vick, Peerless Price, T.J. Duckett, and the West Coast scheme on the fast track in Atlanta seems appealing—especially if you subscribe to the camp that suggests Price is better suited to the No. 2 role.
12. Team Johansson:
Tatum Bell, RB, Denver Broncos
Comment: The good news is that the Broncos operate a fantasy-back factory, and Bell will eventually beat out veteran Garrison Hearst. The red flag, however, is that Mike Shanahan drafts a new runner every season, and he ships his backs out as quickly as he develops them.
13. Team Bynes:
Greg Jones, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Comment: We've already mentioned that the Jags are on the rise offensively, and we hear Fred Taylor, though young and suddenly durable, is prone to injury. Jones, a 250-pound monster, will score more often than Taylor this season, and his Florida State knee injury will virtually disappear in the rearview mirror.
14. Team Olsen:
Michael Clayton, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Comment: We'd like to position Clayton a bit higher up, but the Bucs' quarterback picture still has less than desirables Brad Johnson and Brian Griese in it, not to mention a crowded receiving corps (Keenan McCardell, Joey Galloway, Joe Jurevicius, and Charles Lee) that needs to dissipate.
15. Team Barton:
J.P. Losman, QB, Buffalo Bills
Comment: It's easy to forget about Losman amid all the talk about the Big Three, but Drew Bledsoe is certainly no spring chicken. The Bills' offense is built for the future—with the confident Losman, running back Willis McGahee, and wide receiver Lee Evans forming an impressive nucleus for offensive-minded head coach Mike Mularkey.
16. Team Simpson:
Chris Perry, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Comment: With Rudi Johnson's long-term residence in doubt—he becomes an unrestricted free agent after this season—Perry could be carrying the load in Carson Palmer's offense as early as next year. However, he isn't particularly explosive, and we don't project him any higher than a second-tier fantasy back.
17. Team Lohan:
Lee Evans, WR, Buffalo Bills
Comment: Evans is precisely what Buffalo needs—a burner who can get behind the defense and stretch the field. Peerless Price, who is almost exactly the same build, earned himself quite a payday in by doing just that for the Bills. If Eric Moulds can hang around, Evans will eventually put up huge No. 2 numbers.
18. Team Duff:
Rashaun Woods, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Comment: Woods broke every Big 12 receiving record in his career at Oklahoma State, in a conference that by the way also included four-year Longhorn Roy Williams. You would have seen Woods a bit higher were it not for a severe groin injury to the only Niners quarterback (Tim Rattay) who has taken an NFL snap.
19. Team Aguilera:
Ben Troupe, TE, Tennessee Titans
Comment: Steve McNair has lost red-zone targets Justin McCareins and Frank Wycheck from his explosive offense, and Troupe is a much better receiver than he is a blocker—putting the onus on incumbent Erron Kinney to help pass-protect. Also remember that Wycheck led the Titans in receiving for five straight years.
20. Team Spears:
Keary Colbert, WR, Carolina Panthers
Comment: Playing in the shadow of much-ballyhooed teammate Mike Williams, Colbert was only the third player in USC history to have two 1,000-yard receiving seasons in a career. He'll bring a consistent, steady game to Carolina and possibly steal a starting job as soon as this season.
Pretty surprised that the RBs fell so far, Julius at #10 is sa complete steal