This article is part of our Mock Draft Recap series.
John McKechnie and myself were invited to participate in an industry mock over the last couple of weeks and it was enlightening to see where many different experts were on certain players so early in the process. It's always fun to start establishing thoughts on Average Draft Position (ADP) and get the industry pulse on which guys are positioned to win or not win position battles prior to the start of spring camps.
Below is a tweet with all the participants in the draft (thank you to Mike Bainbridge of The CFF Site for organizing), along with the draft board.
John drew the fourth pick overall and I received the eighth pick overall in a 13-person draft. Here's our analysis of the draft, broken down into two-round sections.
John's Picks: Mohamed Ibrahim, RB, Minnesota at 1.4
Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas at 2.10
Nick's Picks: Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma at 1.8
Kyren Williams, RB, Notre Dame at 2.6
I wouldn't be shocked to see Malik Willis, Breece Hall, Bijan Robinson and Ibrahim go in the top five of most drafts. All four are locked into opportune situations and should return their top-notch value. I was delighted to grab Rattler at eighth overall as I expect Oklahoma to have the top offense in the nation. As for the rest of the first and second rounds, I was surprised by the fast run on receivers (11 of the 26 picks) which suggests that there will be a ton of disagreement around the industry regarding who the elite options are. Both Khalil Shakir and Reggie Roberson are coming off serious injuries, but appear will still be top targets in upcoming drafts. -Nick
Like Nick said, the top-3 is going to be ironclad in most drafts this year. I'm open to another player going ahead of Ibrahim at No.4 when draft season is all said and done, but he made too much sense at this point in time. Workload? Check (1st in carries per game in 2020). Efficiency? Check (5.35 YPC). Plus, he plays in a run-heavy offense that ranked 16th in run play rate. My other observation is that the top of the receiver ADP isn't all that impressive. I ended up with Arkansas' Treylon Burks at 2.10, and I'm fine with that, but most years it feels like there are more no-brainer elite talents at that part of the draft. Burks may get there, but it takes some projection. And as Nick noted, two of the receivers who went off the board before Burks are coming off injury (and might have drop-offs in quarterback play). -John
John's Picks: Camerun Peoples, RB, Appalachian State at 3.4
George Pickens, WR, Georgia at 4.10
Nick's Picks: John Metchie, WR, Alabama at 3.8
Master Teague, RB, Ohio State at 4.6
John is a known fan of the Mountaineers and Bulldogs, so I can see where he was going there. With the aforementioned run on wide receivers in the first two rounds, I was happy to grab Alabama's top wideout. For draft purposes, I've always preferred to focus my efforts on playmakers for those teams that are expected to field the nation's top offenses which both Alabama and Ohio State are in the conversation. I really like the picks of Ulysses Bentley (3.6) and Sam Howell (3.11) as I also expect SMU and North Carolina to be pushing out efficient offensive production. -Nick
First of all, I'm glad that my appreciation of Boone, NC has gotten me loosely attached to App State as a fan. I'm here for it. As for the draft, I was happy to take Peoples but in hindsight, Bentley may have been the more shrewd pick. Another general observation at running back is, after tracking the first industry mock and participating in this one, I'm thinking Austin Jones might be a little overdrafted. Yes, he ranked 9th in carries per game with 21.0, but he only averaged 4.37 yards per carry and Stanford loses some elite talent along the offensive line. This might be a poor man's Mo Ibrahim where workload carries his value. But I won't be in on Jones as anything more than a low-end RB2, and with that, I doubt I'll end up with any shares. -John
John's Picks: Grayson McCall, QB, Coastal Carolina at 5.4
Dante Wright, WR, Colorado State at 6.10
Nick's Picks: Brock Purdy, QB, Iowa State at 5.8
Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State at 6.6
I may have admittedly reached for Purdy in this spot, however, I think Iowa State is going to be extremely good this year. While Oklahoma will be the class of the Big 12, the Cyclones won't be far behind and I think it will be a breakout year for Purdy who has shown that he has the tools to be a productive college player. People forget that he's not a one-dimensional player with 18 rushing scores in three seasons. I also love John's pick of McCall as that kid put together a special freshman season and will put Coastal Carolina on the map by the time he's done on campus. -Nick
Things got interesting in this stage of the draft. Bailey Zappe's move up to FBS from Houston Baptist is among the most interesting fantasy storylines of the season. He was electric in his games against FBS competition in 2020 and now gets to take on a Conference-USA schedule for an entire season. If he can make the adjustment many are expecting, he will be a value at 5.11. Elsewhere, I'm a little wary of investing in Air Raid/Air Raid-adjacent players early in drafts. Yes, Washington State's Travell Harris had a 30 percent target share but averaged a middling 7.6 YPT and had two touchdowns on 45 targets. He's fine and a good floor pick but I need a little more ceiling at this stage. This is an offense that can elevate any number of receivers over him. In that same vein, I can't jump in with both feet on Jaden Walley but I get it more than I get the Harris pick. Walley started to break out down the stretch; he had a 22 percent target share in the final five games, nearly twice as high as any other Mississippi State receiver. And he averaged 10.3 YPT in that span. Even though Mississippi State was erratic in 2020, things should stabilize this season with quarterback being settled, and that will boost a guy like Walley. One note about my pair of picks here, everyone should target Dante Wright. High market share, high-efficiency stud. -John
John's Picks: Preston Hutchinson, QB, Eastern Michigan at 7.4
Zach Evans, RB, TCU at 8.10
Nick's Picks: Lyn-J Dixon, RB, Clemson at 7.8
Xavier Hutchinson, WR, Iowa State at 8.6
Tons of value in these rounds as I like all four of these players to have huge impacts in 2021. Evans and Dixon have the upside to be top-tier running backs if their coaches give them a decent amount of volume. Some other big playmakers who slipped to this round include; Ty Fryfogle (7.2), Chris Rodriguez (7.5), George Holani (7.10) and Erik Ezukanma (8.1). If you don't get the studs you want in the first few rounds, I think a lot of value can be had in these two rounds. -Nick
I wanted to circle back and get a second quarterback as they really started to fly off the board in the fifth round. Carson Strong was a great pick in the sixth. I'm less sure on LSU's Myles Brennan, however. If you guarantee me that he wins the job and plays the full season, then he's absolutely worth a late-seventh. I just don't know you can guarantee that. He has given a ton to the program and will obviously stick in this competition through the fall and could very well begin the season as the starter. But any struggles and people will be clamoring for Max Johnson, who is the quarterback of the future and looked the part in his audition late last season.
As for my quarterback pick, Preston Hutchinson will continue to be a target for me. He ranks fourth among returning quarterbacks in fantasy points per game (albeit in a shorter sample), showing ability as a passer and adding a surprising amount of rushing production. Maybe the rushing production regresses, but he's still sturdy enough as a passer to be worth this selection. -John
John's Picks: Ja'Shaun Poke, WR, Kent State at 9.4
Frank Gore Jr., RB, Southern Miss at 10.10
Nick's Picks: Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee at 9.8
Tanner Mordecai, QB, SMU at 10.6
Once we reached the ninth and tenth rounds, it was pretty evident that there's a ton of depth in the college football game these days. The tenth round is when the tight ends starting getting drafted with Greg Dulcich (10.7) and Charlie Kolar (10.11). From my perspective, I think there's going to be an excellent opportunity to capitalize on the Tennessee and SMU offenses in 2021. -Nick
Hand up, I'd do-over the Gore pick if I could. He's good, and maybe I was trying to overcorrect for being a little lukewarm on the Zach Evans pick. I like the Evans pick more in hindsight but TCU does have plenty of capable backs to spread the workload around. With Gore, I worry about touchdown upside given his size. Southern Miss has more viable options when it gets in close to the goal line than a back who weighed in at 165 when he got to campus. There's also legit concern about the overall health of that offense.
One pick in the 7th that stood out as one I wish I could have made instead of the Evans/Gore pairing was Mike Bainbridge's snag of DeWayne McBride of UAB. At 5-11 and 220 pounds, McBride is a Spencer Brown clone with more explosiveness (9.3 YPC on 47 attempts). Now that Brown is gone, it should be the McBride show in Birmingham. Buy stock now.
Rounding out this section, Poke is someone I'm excited about. Isaiah McKoy is gone, leaving his 31 percent target share behind. Poke can absorb some of that share, and his efficiency last season suggests that he will. He has track speed and averaged 13.6 YPT. Plus, Dustin Crum is back. WR1 for Kent State going this late is a steal. -John
John's Picks: Sam Pinckney, WR, Georgia State at 11.4
Terion Stewart, RB, Bowling Green at 12.10
Nick's Picks: Austin Stogner, TE, Oklahoma at 11.8
Sheldon Evans, RB, Marshall at 12.6
There were a mix of new names and old ones once we reached these pivotal rounds. If Malik Cunningham ends up holding on to the starting job at Louisville, he was a steal at 12.12 and I also think Tahj Washington was picked far too late at 11.12 in a fantasy-friendly Memphis offense. -Nick
This was the stage of the draft where I stopped looking at the previous draft for ADP and started going after my guys. Pinckney is a rising senior who commanded a 23.7 percent target share and averaged 11.5 yards per target in 2020. At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, there aren't many DBs on Georgia State's schedule that can check him. Pinckney will be someone I'm targeting in this part of drafts for as long as he's available in this range.
My next pick was me planting a flag on a certain under-the-radar running back. Terion Stewart is a very exciting prospect who is understandably not getting a ton of buzz yet. For one, he plays for Bowling Green, which is one of the worst teams in FBS and will be trailing often. He also has just 37 carries of sample. So you'd forgive anyone for not ranking a player like that over more established guys like Kobe Lewis of Central Michigan or Toa Taua of Nevada – both of whom went shortly after Stewart. But what Stewart did in his small sample is noteworthy. He ripped off 295 yards and four touchdowns on those attempts – an 8.0 YPC mark. He's got a track background and a dense build at 5-foot-9 and 216 pounds. With Andrew Clair gone, there's nothing standing in the way of Stewart being a workhorse for Bowling Green. Maybe I'm off here, but Stewart has the ingredients I look for (explosiveness, frame, projected workload) in a breakout rusher. -John
John's Picks: Josh Whyle, TE, Cincinnati at 13.4
JT Daniels, QB, Georgia at 14.10
Nick's Picks: Jack Miller, QB, Ohio State at 13.8
Danny Gray, WR, SMU at 14.6
I couldn't have been happier to nab Gray in this spot because not only do I like pairing him with my quarterback, Mordecai, there's an outside chance he's more productive than Roberson who is returning from a season-ending knee injury. Some unbelievable QB value in these rounds as well with Daniels (John's Bulldogs again!), Grant Gunnell (13.6), Jayden Daniels (13.13) and Spencer Sanders (14.7). I likely didn't need to take a chance on Miller with so many other options still available. This also makes me think that there's no reason to reach at QB in the first five rounds unless you feel really good about a player. -Nick
Tight ends were flying off the board at this stage so I figured I'd get in on the fun. I won't argue with the ADP order of the tight ends that went ahead of Whyle, but if that means that I can just wait and get him in the 13th, I'll stick to this strategy throughout draft season. Whyle doesn't see a gigantic target share (11.3 percent) but he's wildly efficient, having caught 28 of 33 targets (84 percent) at 10.7 YPT to go with six touchdowns. TDs can be fickle year-to-year, but Whyle having continuity with his senior quarterback Desmond Ridder bodes well for him being able to maintain in that regard. CFFGuys firing on Michael Mayer right after was a great pick and Mayer will definitely be a target of mine, but there were enough factors going in Whyle's favor to go with the Cincy product.
As for Daniels, I am just surprised he was available this late. Sure he doesn't run, but this is his second season in the system and first healthy one with a full offseason. Daniels also has an embarrassment of riches at receiver with George Pickens, Jermaine Burton, Kearis Jackson, Dominick Blaylock, and Arian Smith. Mac Jones didn't give his fantasy investors much rushing production last season but you didn't hear them complaining. I could see something similar from Daniels in 2021. -John
John's Picks: Jacob Cowing, WR, UTEP at 15.4
Jaden Payoute, WR, Virginia Tech at 16.10
Nick's Picks: Jake Ferguson, TE, Wisconsin at 15.8
Khafre Brown, WR, North Carolina at 16.6
In the last two rounds, I needed to make sure I picked someone from the Badgers and there's a good chance I will need someone from that enticing North Carolina offense this season. Other surprising finds in these late rounds were Anthony Brown (15.7), CJ Verdell (16.4) and Tyler Shough (16.8). -Nick
The endgame is for darts, and given that I was feeling set at running back and quarterback and didn't feel compelled to take a second tight end, firing on a pair of receivers made sense. Cowing has a surprising amount of floor for someone available this late, having averaged 9.2 YPT on 9.4 targets per game in 2020. My last pick couldn't stand starker in contrast to Cowing.
The Payoute pick elicited an "interesting" from the draft room when I locked it in. And it's understandable. He's a third-year player with zero track record due to a long injury history. But Payoute also routinely draws raves from local media in Blacksburg as someone with the potential to be the alpha of this receiver room. He was a four-star recruit by the 247 Composite and the No.7-rated athlete in the class of 2019. Take a look at this quote from Andy Bitter of The Athletic before spring practice got underway.
If there's a receiver to buy stock in right now, it's Payoute, who was primed for a possible breakout last year before suffering a foot/ankle injury in August that cost him the season. It's unclear how close to 100 percent he is now, though Fuente said he'll do some work this spring (even if he doesn't scrimmage). Payoute, who has track speed and can jump out of the stadium, is a big reason why Fuente isn't all that concerned about receiver depth.
This is a total lottery ticket and one that I wouldn't take in the 16th round if this were a deeper draft. But I wanted to put Payoute on fantasy players' radar as someone to consider in the endgame as someone who can really produce if healthy. -John