The 2021 NFL season is less than a month away, and that means fantasy football drafts are starting to get underway. Most fantasy drafts occur in late August or early September, so fantasy owners are currently setting up their cheat sheets, reviewing their rankings, and deciding on which sleepers they want to target. Additionally, many are testing draft strategies by participating in fantasy mock drafts.
Some mock drafts take a long time, so if you’re looking for a quick way to test your strategy, check out the FantasyPro’s Mock Draft Simulator, which allows you to do a mock draft in minutes. However, if you have 45 minutes to an hour available to do one yourself, it can be a big-time asset.
Recently, I participated in a 15-round mock set up by Walter Cherepinsky of WalterFootball.com. The 12-team PPR draft gave me an opportunity to test our top-200 PPR rankings and figure out where popular sleepers were coming off the board.
DOMINATE YOUR DRAFT: Ultimate 2021 Cheat Sheet
In this mock, I chose to operate out of the No. 1 spot. The goal was to build a balanced team and see what it’s like drafting on the turn. That often ends up being trickier than fantasy owners realize, so getting in some reps never hurts. Additionally, I stuck mostly to our top 200 PPR rankings, but I did deviate from them slightly while targeting sleepers.
With all that said, here’s a look at how my team came out in this mid-August mock.
2021 Experts Fantasy Mock Draft: 12-Team PPR league
* This draft was for a full-point PPR league that starts 1 QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs, 1 TE, 1 FLEX, 1 D/ST, 1 K, and has 6 bench spots
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers (Round 1, Pick 1). There is a debate to be had about whether McCaffrey, Derrick Henry or another running back should be the top pick in standard fantasy leagues. However, in PPR formats, McCaffrey is the no-brainer at No. 1 overall. McCaffrey played in just three games last year, but he averaged nearly 125 scrimmage yards, two touchdowns, and 5.7 catches per contest. In 2019, he posted league-high marks in touches (403), scrimmage yards (2,392), and total touchdowns (19). His injury-plagued 2020 campaign may scare some off, but he had never missed a game in three NFL seasons prior to last year. He can be trusted and should finish the year as an RB1 — if not, the RB1 — in all fantasy formats as long as he’s healthy.
Allen Robinson, WR, Bears (2.24). The turn at the end of the second round and going into the third round is a very good place to be this year in fantasy football drafts. Not only do you get the top overall pick, but you have plenty of high-quality options with your back-to-back selections here. My goal was to grab a WR and RB, but we ended up with a WR and QB (more on that later). Robinson was the top player left in our top 200 PPR rankings, and he has posted back-to-back seasons with at least 1,147 receiving yards and six receiving TDs. In that span, he has been targeted a whopping 305 times. He has a high floor, but his ceiling is high, too, as Andy Dalton/Justin FIelds figures to be better than the Mitchell Trubisky/Nick Foles duo he worked with last season.
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs (3.25). Full disclosure: I didn’t plan to take Mahomes here. I was going to take the top running back on the board, but when I realized that was David Montgomery, I balked at that prospect, as I already had his teammate Robinson on my roster. I could’ve gone with Miles Sanders instead, but I ran out of time looking for him. As such, Mahomes was the pick, and it’s not a bad one. He’s another high-floor, high-ceiling player, so grabbing him early to pair with McCaffrey and Robinson makes this team dangerous. Mahomes has averaged 308.2 passing yards per game in three years as a primary starter along with 40 total touchdowns per season. Taking a quarterback early in PPR drafts over high-volume receivers is always a risk, but Mahomes will pan out and ensures we don’t have to draft a backup QB for our team.
Cooper Kupp, WR, Rams (4.48). Kupp is a great value at the very end of the fourth round. He’s our 13th-ranked PPR WR and our 35th-ranked player overall, yet I’m getting him with the 48th pick. Kupp has averaged 129 targets per season the past two years and is getting an upgrade at quarterback in the form of Matthew Stafford. Kupp had just three TDs last season, but his total should go up in 2021 thanks to Stafford’s presence. Both Robinson and Kupp finished the 2020 NFL season among the top 10 in targets per game, so they should be able to carry this receiving corps.
Kareem Hunt, RB, Browns (5.49). Waiting until the fifth round to grab your RB2 is always a risk, but the depth at the position is better than it was last year. Hunt is behind Nick Chubb in Cleveland’s RB pecking order, but he still finished last year with 1,145 scrimmage yards and 11 total TDs. Yes, that’s partly because Chubb missed time and Hunt started five games, but Hunt still had nine games with at least 10 carries even when Chubb was healthy. He should continue to get touches and fare well for Cleveland given that the Browns have the best offensive line in the NFL. Plus, he’s a better receiver than Chubb, so his PPR upside is higher.
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Browns (6.72). Picking Beckham here is a bit frustrating. On the one hand, I’m getting an excellent receiver at a solid value. He’s ranked 59th overall in our PPR rankings, so he could’ve gone in the fifth round with no issue. On the other hand, I already have his teammate Hunt and was one pick away from landing Robby Anderson. That would’ve been better, but there’s no reason to complain about Beckham as a WR3.
Beckham had just 319 yards last year before suffering a torn ACL, but he should be healthy to begin the season. He has logged at least 1,035 receiving yards in five of seven seasons and just needs to find the end-zone more than he has in recent years. He has scored just 16 times in his last four seasons after averaging 11.7 TDs per year to begin his career. The upside is certainly worth the gamble with Beckham, especially as our WR3.
Devin Singletary, RB, Bills (7.73). Like Hunt, Singletary is in a potential timeshare with a better “power” back. However, Zack Moss is dealing with a hamstring injury and Singletary took advantage of his absence in the Bills’ first preseason game. Does that mean Singletary is guaranteed to start? Not necessarily, but soft tissue injuries tend to linger. That could give Singletary the upper hand early in the season, and his explosive ability (4.8 career yards per carry) will make him a home run threat. He has averaged 33.5 catches per season, too, and is much better in that area than Moss. That makes him the back to own in PPR leagues, and Rounds 6 and 7 are the proper place to target him.
Logan Thomas, TE, Washington (8.86). Thomas broke out last season for Washington and proved to be one of the best tight ends in the league. He was targeted 110 times total — third-most among tight ends in the NFL — and notched 72 catches, 670 yards, and six touchdowns. Washington landed an upgrade at quarterback in the form of Ryan Fitzpatrick, so Thomas may be even more of a downfield threat than he was last year. Dallas Goedert and Noah Fant also drew consideration here, but Thomas has the most upside.
Mike Williams, WR, Chargers (9.87). The rest of my draft will be focused on adding depth at the receiver and running back spots. First up, I grabbed one of my top WR sleepers. During his career, Williams has averaged an impressive 15.8 yards per catch and once had a 1,000-yard, 10-TD season. That was in 2019. Justin Herbert’s downfield passing ability gives the 6-4 Williams a legitimate chance to serve as a contested-catch deep threat. He’s a great flex option with WR3 upside.
Will Fuller, WR, Dolphins (10.110). I was torn between Jakobi Meyers and Will Fuller with this selection, but I went with Fuller despite him being ranked one spot lower than Meyers in our WR PPR rankings. Fuller isn’t your traditional PPR wideout. He’s also suspended for the first game of the season. That said, he’s coming off a season in which he was on pace for 77 catches, 1,279 receiving yards, and 12 TDs and was a top-10 fantasy receiver until his six-game suspension sidelined him for the season. Fuller has never played a full 16-game season, but we could do worse with our WR5. Besides, he averaged a career-high 16.6 yards per catch last year, so he only needs a few catches to be a worthwhile flex play.
James White, RB, Patriots (11.111). White is part of the reason I went with Meyers over Fuller. I didn’t want another RB/WR pair from the same team. White saw just 62 targets last year — his lowest total since 2015 — but he’s still one of the better receiving backs in the NFL. Plus, his productivity won’t depend on the Patriots’ quarterback situation, as either Cam Newton or Mac Jones will be happy to check it down to him. White saw 123 targets in ’18, so his PPR upside is high. That said, his floor isn’t bad either, so he’s a nice, safe pick late.
Tarik Cohen, RB, Bears (12.134). We actually have Cohen ranked ahead of White in our PPR RB rankings, but I waited on him because Cohen is coming off a torn ACL. Still, he’s a great PPR back as he has averaged 88.7 targets per season prior to last year when he played in just three games before getting hurt. If Cohen can come back healthy, he will be a matchup-dependent flex play and top handcuff. Damien Williams could steal some work from him, though, which is why I opted to take White ahead of Cohen. Plus, I wanted to see just how far Cohen — our 96th-ranked player in PPR leagues — would slip.
Tyrell Williams, WR, Lions (13.135). Someone has to emerge as the top receiver on the Lions, right? Amon-Ra St. Brown looked good in Detroit’s preseason opener, but he was off the board. Williams also played well, so I went with him. Williams didn’t play in 2020 because of a shoulder injury, but he has long been a good deep threat. He has averaged 16.1 yards per reception during his NFL career and is a nice depth piece to keep around. He could see a lot of targets from Jared Goff, as the Lions figure to be throwing quite a lot this year.
Miami Dolphins D/ST (14.158). Last year, Miami led the NFL in takeaways with 29. They have one of the best secondaries in the league featuring Byron Jones, Xavien Howard and newly signed Justin Coleman. More important, Brian Flores and Josh Boyer are both strong defensive minds and will get the most out of their players. I’ll bank on the Dolphins getting more takeaways in 2021. They play the Patriots Week 1, which means they either get to pick on Cam Newton or rookie Mac Jones.
Matt Prater, K, Cardinals (15.159). There are three qualities you look for in a kicker. Two are must-haves. They have to have a big leg and play in a good offense. The third thing you look for is guys that play in domed stadiums. Prater checks off all of those categories. He always produced for the Lions and now is a top-five fantasy kicker playing in a dynamic-looking Cardinals offense.
By the end of the draft, this is what my team looked like:
QB Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
RB Christian McCaffrey, Panthers
RB Kareem Hunt, Browns
WR Allen Robinson, Bears
WR Cooper Kupp, Rams
FLEX Odell Beckham Jr., Browns
TE Logan Thomas, Washington
K Matt Prater, Cardinals
RB Devin Singletary, Bills
RB James White, Patriots
RB Tarik Cohen, Bears
WR Mike Williams, Chargers
WR Will Fuller, Dolphins
WR Tyrell Williams, Lions
Overall, I like this team. I think it’s balanced and has a very high floor. Provided that everyone stays healthy, this team should be a championship contender buoyed by McCaffrey, Robinson and Mahomes.
The strongest group on this team is the receiving corps. All those players should be at least flex plays in most matchups, so the depth there is strong. Running back is a bit more questionable. Hunt should be a decent RB2, but if Chubb takes on a larger workload, that could leave my team a bit too reliant on Devin Singletary breaking out.
To see the full results of the mock draft, including who I passed on, how some other teams were built, and analysis about the picks, head over to the Walter Football YouTube Channel!