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In this first part of two, Larry and Rob will take alternating turns breaking down the ADP values, possible busts and share some general strategy insights for each round. If you would like to join the discussion and critique the picks of this expert mock draft, please join us on our message board. We're here to help you win!
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Larry Gold: There were five busts in the first round last year: Martin, Foster, Rice, Spiller & Richardson. Coincidence those names are all RBs? Nope. Charles, McCoy, AP and Forte are the only RBs worthy of first-round picks. Kadlec must be all-in with Le'Veon Bell. The former Michigan State alum, while a promising back, is being priced for perfection as the seventh pick. Bryant, Green or Graham would have been wiser. Murray at the No. 11 pick is not value, as he will be paired with a top-tier receiver on rosters that wait until the second round. Peterson may be a gift in the four hole.
Rob Warner: I agree that Bell at No. 8 is a major leap of faith as I prefer DeMarco Murray (should be a PPR beast with pass-happy Scott Linehan calling the offense) and Montee Ball with Knowshon Moreno now in Miami. LeGarrette Blount could also vulture some red-zone touches from Bell making him better served as a mid-second round selection.
Rob Warner: This round saw two second-year running backs (Ball and Bernard). The biggest value pick of round two was TE Jimmy Graham at No. 18 (9.33 ADP), he is arguably the biggest difference-maker in fantasy football. The 27-year-old leads the league in touchdowns (36) over the past three seasons and New Orleans lost Darren Sproles and Lance Moore this offseason (added rookie WR Brandin Cooks). Veteran Arian Foster at No. 16 overall was probably the riskiest selection of the round despite his track record for elite production. The 28-year-old won’t lose touches to Ben Tate (now in Cleveland) but a laundry list of injuries, excessive workload (average of 372 touches from 2010 to 2012) and a questionable quarterback make him a risk as a second-round pick.
Larry Gold: Rob nailed it with Graham. In a round filled with talented, yet unproven stars and injury-prone players, there will be some busts. The Saints' TE is a cut above and exceptional value in the second. Assuming the back is 100-percent, I like Foster teamed with head coach Bill O'Brien. The Texans will lean on Foster for as long as his body holds up. Jones comes in a close second as best value of the round.
Larry Gold: Four second-year players went in the third round. All possess tremendous upside but all can easily underachieve. Crabtree was a curious pick early in the round, as he was selected more than a round ahead of his current ADP (picked at No. 27 vs. 42.96 ADP). Martin could be a steal if he is the Bucs bell-cow runner of two years ago. In a round loaded with question marks, Gronkowski stands to be the best value if he's fully recovered from the ACL tear.
Rob Warner: While the ADP data suggests that Crabtree was the biggest reach, the 49ers might be forced to pass more than they like with injuries and suspensions looming to some key defensive players. Crabtree is in a contract year and could post borderline WR1 numbers if he plays a full 16 games (has 61 catches for 880 yards and eight touchdowns over 10 games with Kaepernick under center). The riskiest pick in my opinion was Reggie Bush as many expect Joique Bell to see an equal number of carries in more of a committee approach with the change from Scott Linehan to former Saints QB coach Joe Lombardi as offensive coordinator (Saints used Pierre Thomas, Ingram and Sproles in RBBC last season).
Rob Warner: Although this is a one-quarterback league and the depth at the position is obvious (I drafted Cam Newton in round 11), the top three quarterbacks are in a class of their own and were steals in round four. Aaron Rodgers at No. 44 (22.96 ADP), Peyton Manning at No. 43 (24.76 ADP) and Drew Brees at No. 47 (31.21 ADP) were the best values of this round. The biggest reach of the round was Colts' WR T.Y. Hilton at No. 38 (52.91 ADP). The return of WR Reggie Wayne and TE Dwayne Allen from 2013 injuries combined with the offseason addition of Hakeem Nicks makes Hilton a better pick a round or two later.
Larry Gold: I can't get myself to go QB in the fourth. Yes, Manning, Rodgers and Brees are a worthy top-three, but sacrificing a premier WR when I can grab Stafford or Luck three rounds later, or even a Newton, Brady type seven rounds later is too much to give up. I believe Hilton will be a second round selection in '15, so the fourth round feels reasonable here. Ritchie knows there's no way T.Y. would of made it back to him in late round five.
Larry Gold: Round five is just so blah. Kruse grabbing Mathews as an RB3 stands out as the safest pick in a round dominated by WR2s and WR3s. Rozek took Sanders nearly 30 spots ahead of his current ADP (picked at No. 57 vs. 83.81 ADP). Feels like a bit of a chase for a WR2 as the new Broncos' receiver is their fourth-option behind Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas and Wes Welker. Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace are fair value and have sneaky upside. Deming went early with Rashad Jennings, but he was drafting for need at RB.
Rob Warner: Three picks that I liked in this round especially in PPR formats were WRs Kendall Wright, Torrey Smith and Mike Wallace who is primed for a bounce-back season (New OC Bill Lazor from the Eagles helped DeSean Jackson post a career-year in 2013). I agree with the Sanders picks as the biggest head-scratcher of the round as he’ll be hard-pressed to produce consistent numbers with a significant decrease in targets. Denver rookie WR Cody Latimer is one to watch in dynasty leagues and can be drafted very late.
Rob Warner: This was the round of young WRs (including rookies Brandin Cooks and Sammy Watkins) and veteran running backs (Frank Gore and Pierre Thomas). Ray Rice’s fantasy stock is in limbo (expected suspension yet to be announced) and I may have taken the plunge a round or so too early but the PPR upside was too enticing (58 catches or more in five straight seasons). The best value according to ADP data was Bills rookie WR Watkins at No. 66 overall (50.16 ADP). With Steve Johnson now in San Fran, Watkins could surprise; however, being the No. 1 WR in one of the more run-heavy offenses with a QB that struggled in his rookie season is not usually a recipe for success. Watkins should be drafted as a WR3 in redraft leagues. TE Jordan Cameron looks to be another value pick at No. 63 (50.83 ADP) but I’m not so sure. He is coming off an impressive season (80 catches for 917 yards and seven touchdowns) but the loss of OC Norv Turner and additional defensive attention (with Josh Gordon suspended) are concerning. WR Kenny Stills at No. 71 (120.97 ADP) could prove to be the most questionable pick of this round as he’ll likely remain a third or fourth option in the Saints' passing attack despite the losses of Sproles and Moore (136 targets combined).
Larry Gold: Although I'm leery of rookie receivers, Watkins is a beast. The question remains whether or not he can be reliable fantasy option consistently in his first year. I'd prefer to draft Watkins as a WR4, but only because of the unproven E.J. Manuel. While I agree Stills could of been had a round or two early, the Brees-to-Stills connection was the most efficient QB-to-WR combo in 2013 and should only improve this year. Always liked Gore, but his body has taken a beating and I see more of a committee approach this year. I think he doesn't match his draft spot here.
Larry Gold: The tight ends ruled the seventh round. Vernon Davis, Greg Olsen, Jordan Reed and Dennis Pitta were all quality picks as there is a steep fall-off at the position thereafter. Ladarius Green went early but has enough upside to justify the pick. Warner was rewarded for his patience, landing a second solid RB2 in Chris Johnson to go along with Rice in the prior round. Kruse was thin at WR, but taking Shorts about 30 spots ahead of his ADP (picked at No. 79 vs. 107.69 ADP) is a stretch. This is the last year Andrew Luck will be had outside the Top 50.
Rob Warner: I do like Johnson here especially in PPR leagues. The Jets boast the most favorable schedule for RBs and the addition of Eric Decker could help this offense surprise. Hakeem Nicks and Cecil Shorts should have gone a few rounds later in my opinion. The Colts have a crowded group of pass-catchers as Wayne and Allen return from injury to team with Hilton, Fleener and an aging oft-injured Nicks. Shorts has missed 11 games over his three seasons and the Jags added rookies Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson.
Rob Warner: Two young WRs stick out as the best value picks at the midpoint of the draft. Rookie Mike Evans at No. 93 (72.91 ADP) and DeAndre Hopkins at No. 96 (82.21 ADP) could flirt with WR3 numbers. Hopkins is one to watch as Andre Johnson demanded a trade out of Houston, which could open up the WR1 role in first year head coach Bill O’Brien’s somewhat pass-happy offense. A few veteran selections were the bigger head-scratchers of this round as Fred Jackson at No. 86 (136.84 ADP) and WR Brian Hartline at No. 94 (152.95 ADP) will be lucky to return enough on the eighth-round investments. Buffalo added Bryce Brown this offseason and Jackson has missed 12 games over the past three seasons. Hartline has been a solid PPR producer the past two seasons (70-plus catches). Unfortunately, he will be returning from Week 17 ACL injuries and could be competing for targets with rookie Jarvis Landry or even Brandon Gibson. He also has just 10 touchdowns over his five NFL seasons. I would have probably opted to go with the upside of the WRs selected a round later.
Larry Gold: Agree with Rob's assessment here. Your eighth round selections are either drafted to start or your first option once injuries and byes hit. I would not feel good about F. Jackson in my lineup this year. With a healthy Spiller and Brown in the backfield, I just don't see any way for Jackson to get enough touches every week. Hartline should do well in Miami's new pass-happy attack, yet as a WR3 or WR4, he could have been selected a few rounds later. I like the Bowe pick. K.C. will need more from him as teams game-plan to stop Charles.