This article is part of our 2020 Rankings series.
I was invited to participate in an industry mock over the weekend with some of the brightest college fantasy football minds out there. So, yeah, I was a misfit in that regard. But it was a really fun exercise that might have been the most insightful mock I've ever been a part of.
Getting an idea on the market was my main goal. The lack of spring practice made this a wide-open exercise that served to give a loose idea of how certain teams and players were valued by my peers. I was interested to see how much the top returning producers would shape the first few rounds given the lack of news on emerging players from spring. I was also curious to see how drafters would approach the LSU offense with so many key pieces leaving along with Joe Brady's departure. And North Carolina was also an interesting test case given the Heels' impressive young nucleus. Spoiler: you're going to have to pay up for Sam Howell and company.
Below is a tweet with all the participants in the draft, along with the draft board and my roster.
I drew the fourth pick overall. Here's my analysis of the draft, broken down into two-round sections.
|1||1||1||RB||Hubbard, Chuba||OkSt||Josh Chevalier|
|1||2||2||WR||Chase, Ja'Marr||LSU||Team FranchiseKF|
|1||3||3||QB||Fields, Justin||OHSt||Justin Heisey|
|1||5||5||QB||Ehlinger, Sam||Tex||Team ChrisKay|
|1||6||6||RB||Etienne, Travis||Clem||Team theCFFsite|
|1||7||7||RB||Gainwell, Kenneth||Mem||Team zthall|
|1||8||8||RB||Harris, Najee||Ala||Team andrewpkatz|
|1||9||9||QB||Rattler, Spencer||Okla||Nate Marchese|
|1||11||11||QB||Howell, Sam||UNC||Team Quarantine|
|1||12||12||WR||Wallace, Tylan||OkSt||Team kevin_brown87|
|1||13||13||WR||Roberson Jr., Reggie||SMU||Team mikebainbridge20|
|2||1||14||WR||Smith, DeVonta||Ala||Team mikebainbridge20|
|2||2||15||RB||Borghi, Max||WaSt||Team kevin_brown87|
|2||3||16||WR||Terry, Tamorrion||FlaSt||Team Quarantine|
|2||5||18||WR||Moore, Rondale||Purd||Nate Marchese|
|2||6||19||RB||Hall, Breece||IASt||Team andrewpkatz|
|2||7||20||RB||Lewis, Kobe||C Mi||Team zthall|
|2||8||21||WR||Stevenson, Marquez||Hou||Team theCFFsite|
|2||9||22||WR||Atwell, Chatarius||Lou||Team ChrisKay|
|2||11||24||WR||Surratt, Sage||Wake||Justin Heisey|
|2||12||25||WR||Bateman, Rashod||Minn||Team FranchiseKF|
|2||13||26||QB||King, D'Eriq||MiaFL||Josh Chevalier|
I was faced with a tough decision right off the bat. I wanted to go running back with Justin Fields, the likely No.1 overall player by the time the season's over, off the board. But which one?
Travis Etienne was of course tempting – he was second among returning running backs in fantasy points last season and racked up 23 total touchdowns. My only concern there is that Clemson doesn't need Etienne to have a successful offense. Etienne had a high rushing share last year – 37 percent to be exact – but that only added up to 207 carries over 15 games. He didn't even rank in the top 100 in fourth quarter carries last season in the entire nation. Lyn-J Dixon and incoming freshman Demarkcus Bowman are talented enough to where Clemson has to allocate carries for them to keep them happy. And it keeps Etienne fresh.
There probably isn't a running back better on a per-touch basis than Etienne, but you're tying one hand behind your back a little bit taking him over someone who projects for 100 or more touches and is a more crucial part of their offense.
Kenny Gainwell was my other main consideration there. Gainwell owned a 42 percent rushing share in an offense that ranked 9th in the nation in yards per play. He's also legit as a pass-catching threat, having hauled in 51 of 61 targets for 610 yards and three scores as a freshman in 2019.
In the end, I went with Patterson. I'm not sure any offense leans more heavily on one player than Buffalo does on Patterson. He had 312 carries and ranked third in the nation in carries per game (24.0). Patterson scored 20 of Buffalo's 54 total touchdowns. I might end up regretting going with Patterson over Gainwell, but Patterson's explosiveness plus heavy workload should keep him among the most productive running backs in the country even if he's not making a big splash in the passing game.
I wanted to address quarterback in the second round. O'Hara might've been a reach as the sixth quarterback off the board, but I'm sold on him as a true-dual threat. He's first among returning quarterbacks in terms of rushing production after racking up 1,058 yards and nine touchdowns in 2019. O'Hara is also no slouch as a passer, completing 62.7 percent of his passes and throwing 20 touchdowns on 335 attempts. He's a decent bet to finish the year with 4,000 total yards with 1,000 of those coming on the ground, along with 30-plus total touchdowns.
Ja'Marr Chase going No.2 overall. It's bold – I don't know if any offense will ever replicate what LSU did a year ago, and that includes Chase. I have no doubt about his talent and him being the best receiver in college football. But the drop from Joe Burrow to Myles Brennan could be significant, as could the overall efficiency of the offense with Joe Brady gone. If nothing else, I respect the stones it takes to plant your flag that hard. Shoutout @FranchiseKF for going after it.
Otherwise, one of the lessons I wanted to learn from this was the market reaction to Mike Leach leaving Washington State and going to Mississippi State. Max Borghi was probably the player I was most interested in seeing how his valuation would shift. The end result was him going in the early second round. He ranked 21st among running backs in FPts/G last season. The expectation seems to be that he'll run the ball more, but he probably won't get 86 manufactured catches either. Maybe it ends up as a break-even where he ends up in the same ballpark in terms of total yardage and touchdowns. The worst-case scenario would be his per-carry production as a runner takes a major dip and he ends up significantly less receptions. I like what Borghi brings to the table in general, but there's always someone else in my draft room that likes him more.
|3||1||27||QB||Newman, Jamie||UGA||Josh Chevalier|
|3||2||28||WR||Newsome, Dazz||UNC||Team FranchiseKF|
|3||3||29||RB||Jefferson, Jermar||OreSt||Justin Heisey|
|3||5||31||WR||Adams Jr., Jonathan||ArkSt||Team ChrisKay|
|3||6||32||RB||Brooks, Kennedy||Okla||Team theCFFsite|
|3||7||33||WR||Vaughns, Tyler||USC||Team zthall|
|3||8||34||WR||Pickens, George||UGA||Team andrewpkatz|
|3||9||35||RB||Hill, Kylin||MisSt||Nate Marchese|
|3||11||37||QB||Costello, K.J.||Stan||Team Quarantine|
|3||12||38||QB||Daniels, Jayden||AzSt||Team kevin_brown87|
|3||13||39||QB||Sanders, Spencer||OkSt||Team mikebainbridge20|
|4||1||40||RB||Holani, George||Boise||Team mikebainbridge20|
|4||2||41||QB||Ahlers, Holton||ECU||Team kevin_brown87|
|4||3||42||RB||Hawkins, Javian||Lou||Team Quarantine|
|4||5||44||QB||Purdy, Brock||IASt||Nate Marchese|
|4||6||45||WR||Walker, Tre||SJSU||Team andrewpkatz|
|4||7||46||WR||Brown, Dyami||UNC||Team zthall|
|4||8||47||WR||Haselwood, Jadon||Okla||Team theCFFsite|
|4||9||48||QB||Buechele, Shane||SMU||Team ChrisKay|
|4||11||50||WR||Bell, Renard||WaSt||Justin Heisey|
|4||12||51||WR||Waddle, Jaylen||Ala||Team FranchiseKF|
|4||13||52||WR||Johnson, C.J.||ECU||Josh Chevalier|
This was my first mock of the offseason, so my inclination was to go after a balanced roster build. I already had an elite running back and a top flight quarterback, so receiver was next on the check list.
I'm bullish on the Memphis offense, so going after the No.1 target for the Tigers seemed like a good move. I don't know if there's another level Coxie can reach as a fifth-year senior, but even if he's maxed out, I'm sold on what that ceiling looks like. Coxie has 148 catches on 246 targets over the last two years for 2,450 yards and 16 touchdowns. He has at least 70 catches for at least 1,100 yards in each of those seasons, and the targets have been north of 115 in each as well. Locking in a safe and productive receiver there would allow me to take some more speculative picks later in the draft.
I went after Dustin Crum with my fourth pick. I like the pick and the player, but it was at this point that I realized I might've been better off waiting on QB2 and continuing to stockpile skill position talent. I'll be targeting Crum throughout draft season. He fits the bill in what I target at quarterback: he's a dual-threat with polished passing ability. Crum completed 69.3 percent of his passes last season with an 8.4 YPA to go with a 20:2 TD:INT. He also ran for 707 yards and six scores. This will be his senior season, and if 2019 is any indication, Crum should be one of the most productive quarterback in college football this year.
I was hoping to get Javian Hawkins in this draft and was interested to see where he'd go. I clearly wasn't his only believer as Team Quarantine nabbed him at Pick 3 of the fourth round. Louisville is going to have an explosive offense with a lot of returning pieces this year. Now I know that you'll have to pay up to get exposure to that offense, seeing as TuTu Atwell went in the late second round, too.
|5||1||53||WR||Bell, David||Purd||Josh Chevalier|
|5||2||54||RB||Bailey, David||BC||Team FranchiseKF|
|5||3||55||RB||Watson, Nakia||Wisc||Justin Heisey|
|5||5||57||RB||Knox, Brenden||Marsh||Team ChrisKay|
|5||6||58||RB||McDaniel, TJ||SMU||Team theCFFsite|
|5||7||59||RB||Henderson, Justin||LaTec||Team zthall|
|5||8||60||QB||Slovis, Kedon||USC||Team andrewpkatz|
|5||9||61||RB||Valladay, Xazavian||Wyo||Nate Marchese|
|5||10||62||WR||St. Brown, Amon-Ra||USC||GridironScholar|
|5||11||63||RB||Boyd, Rakeem||Ark||Team Quarantine|
|5||12||64||WR||Robinson, Wan'Dale||Neb||Team kevin_brown87|
|5||13||65||QB||Hartman, Sam||Wake||Team mikebainbridge20|
|6||1||66||WR||Smart, Jared||Hawaii||Team mikebainbridge20|
|6||2||67||RB||Ibrahim, Mohamed||Minn||Team kevin_brown87|
|6||3||68||WR||Darby, Frank||AzSt||Team Quarantine|
|6||5||70||WR||Marshall Jr., Terrace||LSU||Nate Marchese|
|6||6||71||RB||Koback, Bryant||Toled||Team andrewpkatz|
|6||7||72||QB||Bonner, Logan||ArkSt||Team zthall|
|6||8||73||QB||Cunningham, Micale||Lou||Team theCFFsite|
|6||9||74||RB||Williams, D.J.||Aub||Team ChrisKay|
|6||11||76||RB||Davis, Re'Mahn||Temp||Justin Heisey|
|6||12||77||RB||Huntley, Caleb||Ball||Team FranchiseKF|
|6||13||78||RB||Johnson, Josh||ULMon||Josh Chevalier|
These were two players I was mildly surprised to see available at their respective spots. With Mitchell, there is the concern with having to split carries with Trey Ragas. But that was the case last year, too, and he had to contend with 2020 draft entrant Raymond Calais as well. Calais is gone now, leaving 117 carries up for grabs. Not all of them will go to Mitchell, of course, but it stands to reason that he'll be seeing a few more carries per game. Louisiana's rushing attack is truly one of the best in the country – it ranked 6th in the nation in yards per game in 2019 – and Mitchell is the top option in its backfield. Not a lot to overthink there when looking at what was available at running back there.
I can understand Olave's fall a bit. Ohio State is always so loaded at receiver that it's hard to find a true target monster on a week-to-week basis. But we're talking about the best receiver in an offense that is replacing 50 percent of its targets in the form of K.J. Hill, Binjimen Victor, Austin Mack and J.K. Dobbins. So this should be the Olave and Garrett Wilson show, and while Wilson might have more physical tools, Olave is the receiver to target here. Olave averaged 11.1 YPT and racked up 12 touchdowns on 76 targets. He's polished, he's fluid, and he's the top target for Justin Fields. I honestly think Olave is a legit Belitnikoff candidate.
The two Davids that went at the top of the fifth are two of the more interesting players out there and I was interested to see where they would land. I thought about targeting Bell as my WR2, but that I was hoping to make that call a round or two later. There's no discount on Bell even with the assumption that Rondale Moore will be available for more than four games this season. Noted.
Bailey looks like a competent replacement for AJ Dillon for the Eagles. He's even built the same, checking in at 6-foot-1 and 240 pounds. Bailey averaged 5.7 yards per carry for BC last year and had some monster outings, like a 181-yard outing against North Carolina State and a 172-yard rampage against Syracuse. However, Boston College has a new coaching staff with Frank Cignetti running the offense. Boston College had the sixth-highest rushing play rate in all of college football last season. If that rush rate drops and Boston College checks in at, say, 20th, what will that do to Bailey's carry ceiling?
|7||1||79||RB||Williams, Charles||UNLV||Josh Chevalier|
|7||2||80||WR||Felton, Demetric||UCLA||Team FranchiseKF|
|7||3||81||QB||Book, Ian||ND||Justin Heisey|
|7||5||83||WR||Pearson, Jahcour||W Ky||Team ChrisKay|
|7||6||84||WR||Williams, Seth||Aub||Team theCFFsite|
|7||7||85||WR||McKoy, Isaiah||Kent||Team zthall|
|7||8||86||TE||Granson, Kylen||SMU||Team andrewpkatz|
|7||9||87||RB||Ealy, Jerrion||Miss||Nate Marchese|
|7||11||89||RB||Laborn, Khalan||FlaSt||Team Quarantine|
|7||12||90||RB||Murray, Marcel||ArkSt||Team kevin_brown87|
|7||13||91||RB||Thompson, SaRodorick||TxTch||Team mikebainbridge20|
|8||1||92||RB||Goodson, Tyler||Iowa||Team mikebainbridge20|
|8||2||93||TE||Pitts, Kyle||Fla||Team kevin_brown87|
|8||3||94||WR||Philyor, Whop||Ind||Team Quarantine|
|8||5||96||TE||Kuithe, Brant||Utah||Nate Marchese|
|8||6||97||QB||Cordeiro, Chevan||Hawaii||Team andrewpkatz|
|8||7||98||TE||Jordan, Brevin||MiaFL||Team zthall|
|8||8||99||RB||Newton, Richard||Wash||Team theCFFsite|
|8||9||100||WR||Stokes, Keylon||Tuls||Team ChrisKay|
|8||11||102||WR||Rambo, Charleston||Okla||Justin Heisey|
|8||12||103||RB||Williams Jr., Pooka||Kans||Team FranchiseKF|
|8||13||104||WR||Jackson, Warren||ColSt||Josh Chevalier|
Few receivers ended the season on a bigger hot streak than Snead. From Week 8 through the end of the regular season, Snead ranked 8th in the nation in targets (67) and fourth in receptions (54). He converted that into 603 yards and five touchdowns in those six games. Getting a starting receiver in one of the most pass-happy offenses in the country seemed like a decent strategy.
Dante Wright was my next pick, and probably my biggest reach of the draft. Warren Jackson is the No.1 for Colorado State so Wright was a misstep. He's a fine slot receiver but there were better options on the board. I also have a bit of reservation about the Colorado State offense this year with Mike Bobo gone. Call this one a mulligan.
This is where the tight end run began and I was not particularly happy to miss out, especially on Kylen Granson. Kyle Pitts is going to be a monster for Florida this year as well – he's easily the best player on that offense. But Granson's flourish to end 2019 was so dominant that it wouldn't surprise me at all if he ended this season as TE1. There's a lot of regret for me in this portion of the draft.
|9||1||105||RB||McCormick, Sincere||UTSA||Josh Chevalier|
|9||2||106||RB||Sermon, Trey||Okla||Team FranchiseKF|
|9||3||107||WR||Nixon, Tre||UCF||Justin Heisey|
|9||5||109||RB||Verdell, CJ||Oreg||Team ChrisKay|
|9||6||110||RB||Brown, Spencer||UAB||Team theCFFsite|
|9||7||111||QB||Martinez, Adrian||Neb||Team zthall|
|9||8||112||RB||White, Zamir||UGA||Team andrewpkatz|
|9||9||113||WR||Thornton, Tyquan||Bayl||Nate Marchese|
|9||11||115||TE||Bushman, Matt||BYU||Team Quarantine|
|9||12||116||RB||Whittington, Jordan||Tex||Team kevin_brown87|
|9||13||117||QB||Armstrong, Brennan||UVA||Team mikebainbridge20|
|10||1||118||RB||Rountree III, Larry||Mizzu||Team mikebainbridge20|
|10||2||119||RB||Ford, Jerome||Cin||Team kevin_brown87|
|10||3||120||WR||Harris, Taj||Syr||Team Quarantine|
|10||4||121||RB||Emery Jr., John||LSU||GridironScholar|
|10||5||122||QB||Brennan, Myles||LSU||Nate Marchese|
|10||6||123||WR||Grimes, Randal||UNLV||Team andrewpkatz|
|10||7||124||RB||Gray, Eric||Tenn||Team zthall|
|10||8||125||TE||Pederson, Josh||ULMon||Team theCFFsite|
|10||9||126||TE||Mitchell, James||VaTec||Team ChrisKay|
|10||11||128||RB||Carothers, Jamale||Navy||Justin Heisey|
|10||12||129||QB||Mond, Kellen||TxAM||Team FranchiseKF|
|10||13||130||TE||Raine, John||FlAtl||Josh Chevalier|
Looking back, I probably could have sought out running back with one of these picks. I don't regret the Moore pick on its surface, but leaving nine rounds with just two running backs feels a bit risky even if I'm high on both of those backs.
I'm not expecting Mississippi to lean on Moore to handle 36 percent of the target share again. The Rebels have too much receiver talent to run that strategy back. But Moore should still lead the team in targets and receptions and the passing game as a whole could be better if Lane Kiffin can get everyone up to speed. Moore is a fine value in the ninth.
Ferguson was the top remaining tight end on my board. He had the second-highest target share on the Badgers last season and averaged an impressive 9.5 YPT while Wisconsin's offense averaged 8.0 YPA as a collective. Ferguson's two touchdowns were a disappointment in 2019, so here's hoping the touchdown regression gods look favorably on him this season.
This section of the draft had a ton of interesting running backs come off the board, as well as some absolute steals at quarterback. Getting Ohio State's potential No.1 running back, Trey Sermon, in the ninth round could be the best value of the draft if he stays healthy.
At quarterback, Kellen Mond being the 25th player at his position to come off the board is a huge value. Maybe the ceiling isn't as high as we once thought, but he's a mobile senior in his second season in Jimbo Fisher's system. The schedule will still be tough but at least Texas A&M won't have to play at Clemson and at Georgia. I think Mond can be a Top 20 quarterback this season.
Adrian Martinez...how the mighty have fallen. Martinez was one of the big disappointments in all of college football last season. We've seen enough flashes of brilliance from him to where he can't be written off completely, though. He's really interesting as a post-hype quarterback that should be a mid-round target for drafters who go heavy at the skill positions in the early goings.
|11||1||131||RB||Kennedy III, Wesley||GaSo||Josh Chevalier|
|11||2||132||QB||Gabriel, Dillon||UCF||Team FranchiseKF|
|11||3||133||QB||Reynolds, Chris||Char||Justin Heisey|
|11||5||135||RB||Armstrong, Jafar||ND||Team ChrisKay|
|11||6||136||QB||Jones, Mac||Ala||Team theCFFsite|
|11||7||137||QB||Plumlee, John Rhys||Miss||Team zthall|
|11||8||138||WR||Moore, Skyy||WestMI||Team andrewpkatz|
|11||9||139||WR||Mitchell, Osirus||MisSt||Nate Marchese|
|11||11||141||RB||Williams, Javonte||UNC||Team Quarantine|
|11||12||142||WR||McCoy, Bru||USC||Team kevin_brown87|
|11||13||143||TE||Durham, Payne||Purd||Team mikebainbridge20|
|12||1||144||WR||Smith, Jake||Tex||Team mikebainbridge20|
|12||2||145||WR||Pimpleton, Kalil||C Mi||Team kevin_brown87|
|12||3||146||RB||Clair, Andrew||BGSU||Team Quarantine|
|12||5||148||RB||Trayanum, DeaMonte||AzSt||Nate Marchese|
|12||6||149||QB||Thomas, Zac||App||Team andrewpkatz|
|12||7||150||WR||Blue, Jadan||Temp||Team zthall|
|12||8||151||RB||Walker, Gaej||W Ky||Team theCFFsite|
|12||9||152||RB||Scott III, Stevie||Ind||Team ChrisKay|
|12||11||154||TE||Galloway, Braden||Clem||Justin Heisey|
|12||12||155||TE||Freiermuth, Pat||PSU||Team FranchiseKF|
|12||13||156||RB||Emmons, BJ||FlAtl||Josh Chevalier|
I had to scramble to get some running back depth in the endgame but I was pretty happy with the results. Billingsley owned a 38 percent rushing share for Troy last season while no other back had more than 18 percent. I went over to our stats page and filtered by 2019 sophomores and found that Billingsley was one of the most productive players in his class on a per-game basis, averaging 14.3 fantasy points per game. He's fairly explosive (5.81 YPC) and was active in the passing game with 25 catches on 40 targets. All of that was enough for me to go after Billingsley in the 11th.
Like any good last pick, this one's a dart throw that I'll be able to brag about if I get it right or act like it was a throwaway if it ends up being a bust. Tyler fits that mold for me for a couple of reasons. For one, he's in line to be the next man up in a Western Michigan offense that is looking to replace LeVante Bellamy's 53 percent rushing share. Now it's possible that I didn't properly weight Western Michigan's addition of Nevada transfer Jaxson Kincaid, but I like Tyler's profile. Of the 2019 freshmen with at least 60 carries, Tyler ranked fourth in yards per carry at 5.74. And I also realized that Western Michigan may be an under-the-radar offense to target in general this year. The Broncos have a balanced attack with impressive receivers that will keep defenses honest and keep the box light for the running backs. That's huge. Even if Tyler doesn't replace Bellamy's workload 1:1, there's reason to believe he can push for 200 carries and rack up plenty of production with that type of volume.