This weekend, the writers at Fantrax kicked off a 2021 redraft fantasy football league. Here’s our 12-team draft with a half-PPR format — 0.5 points per reception, 4 points per passing touchdown, 6 points per rushing/receiving touchdown. No kickers and or defense/special teams were used. Because this crew has never all been in the same league before, our snake draft was randomized in order. Below are the results of the draft for each player in the order in which they picked in the first round.
Each writer reviews their unique approach on the night of the draft, how they prepared and executed it, and where they found the most value—potential steals, sleeper agendas, etc.
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12-Team Half-PPR Mock Draft
Editorial Note: The draft took place before the Rams’ recent acquisition of running back Sony Michel from the Patriots.
#1: Meng Song (@FFA_Meng)
In general, I want to come away with three elite players in the first three rounds. Depending on draft position and which players drop, that could be RB-RB-TE, RB-RB-WR, RB-WR-WR, RB-WR-TE, or WR-WR-TE. For those lucky enough to have the 1.01 spot this year, any of those combinations that lead with Christian McCaffrey will be an unfair advantage assuming he stays healthy considering his safe floor and monumental ceiling. You can check out my full top-200 PPR rankings for more details.
I’m pretty happy with my roster, as I got a lot of the targets I specified in my league winners article series. Outside of my roster, Odell Beckham dropping to Round 7 is a steal. Despite not having seen much from him in training camp, he’s on track to start Week 1 and remains the no. 1 target in a Cleveland offense that figures to take another step forward in Year 2 under Kevin Stefanski. Marvin Jones also remains perennially undervalued. Given D.J. Chark’s offseason finger surgery, Laviska Shenault’s part-time role in the slot, and the rapport Jones has shown with Trevor Lawrence in the preseason, Jones should be the first Jacksonville wide receiver taken in drafts, not the last.
#2: Dave Swan (@davithius)
Since this is a redraft with no overall competition at stake, my focus shifted towards a more conventional strategy. What I mean by this is, try to play it safe and amass as many skill position players with defined roles. With that said, I knew a running back-heavy approach was for the plan for the first handful of rounds.
Assuming McCaffrey would go numero uno, Dalvin Cook was already queued up before Meng kicked off the draft. Sure, running backs come with some injury risk as we saw last season but Cook is a bellcow. Next, I followed up my RBs with Joe Mixon and Myles Gaskin. Like I mentioned, leaving the early part of the draft with RBs that shouldn’t share a backfield was a main driver in decision-making.
Grabbing an early quarterback is rarely a strategy I deploy, but Aaron Rodgers offers a weekly safety blanket. While I am well aware of the touchdown regression that could bestow the MVP play-caller, he’s still a QB that can put up elite numbers. Again, safe and steady wins the race, plus I backed him up with Derek Carr. I really like what they’ve added in Las Vegas, and think Carr has a top-10 upside if all goes right.
Sticking with a volume-based theme, I tried selecting pass catchers that will receive plenty of targets. On top of that, the focus was also skewed towards tandems; e.g., Rodgers-Cobb, Robinson-Mooney, Carr-Brown. This was the position I was sniped heavily on, and my queue evaporated quickly. Furthermore, this is definitely an area of weakness and I will have to keep a close eye on the wire for potential pickups.
Lastly, don’t draft Tim Tebow. It was a joke and he will be churned into something viable by Week 1. If you have a suggestion for who to pick up, hit me on the Twitter-machine (@davithius).
#3: Corbin Young (@corbin_young21)
With the third overall pick, I debated starting the zero running back strategy off right. However, Alvin Kamara felt like the smart pick given how he smashed without Michael Thomas in the lineup. In the past two seasons, Kamara averaged just under 31 fantasy points per game without Thomas and just over 18 fantasy points per game with Thomas in PPR leagues.
After that, the anchor running back strategy went in full effect. I paired the uber-efficient A.J. Brown with the safety of Keenan Allen. Additionally, D.J. Moore is a receiver I’m targeting in almost every draft because he presents top-12 upside in 2021.
Moore reminds me of Stefon Diggs from 2018 and 2019, where Diggs showed the ability to have success with intermediate and deep routes. Then last season, Diggs exploded with career-bests across the board. I expect Moore to take that type of leap given the data presented above. After five receivers in a row, I finished off the Chargers stack with Justin Herbert. It then took several middle-to-late rounds to fill the second running back spot.
With two additional FLEX spots, I focused on attempting to “win the flex” as RotoViz calls it, where I’m filling the flex spots with explosive and high-upside receivers before I’m filling the RB2 spot. Unfortunately, Adam Trautman suffered an injury in their recent preseason game since he lands as one of my favorite tight end targets given the Saints typical tight end usage. However, I’ve pounded the table all offseason for Gerald Everett. If we’re looking for the 2021 version of Logan Thomas, that’s Everett for me given the explosive athletic profile paired with one of the most efficient quarterbacks in Russell Wilson.
To finish off the draft, I had to stick to my plan of taking K.J. Hamler, who presents similar speed, size, and skills to Mecole Hardman; yet Hardman goes about 100 picks earlier in most drafts. More and more, I’m buying into the idea that 2021 is the season where the zero running back strategy or anchor RB approach may work well given the receivers I love. Many talk about the depth of WR, but the WR dead zone exists just like the RB dead zone exists in fantasy drafts.
#4: Ahaan Rungta (@AhaanRungta)
Coming into the draft, I knew I wanted to be heavy on running backs early on. With wide receiver as deep as ever, I knew I could find supreme value there outside of the first three rounds. Landing with the #4 overall pick guaranteed me to get one of the elite-tier running backs. With McCaffrey, Cook, and Kamara off the board, I went with a superstar-caliber player with a rough go at ball security in 2020. Ezekiel Elliott, who tied for the lead league in drops among running backs last season (6), is not just due for a bounceback with turnovers but also will get a stud back at quarterback in Dak Prescott. In five games started by Prescott last season, Elliott averaged 19.9 half-PPR fantasy points. With no injury concerns at the moment, I needed some safe stock in that elite Cowboys offense and I got that in the first round.
Ezekiel Elliott needs an offseason to reset; he's been in his head all season long with the unforced errors. He has one carry of 20+ yards on the season. That play ended in a fumble. #DallasCowboys pic.twitter.com/Nmh9ASXfDZ
— Ahaan Rungta (@AhaanRungta) November 26, 2020
It didn’t take long until I had to pivot, however. In the second round, I did something that I have never done before in a 1-QB league. After being sniped by Team 5 (Nic) on my wide receiver of choice (DK Metcalf), I took the man who I consider the safest overall player in the NFL. While it’s generally a pretty good rule to wait for a quarterback, Patrick Mahomes is the exception. Not only is he an athletic monster, playing through serious injuries in Super Bowl LV, but he is the leader of the best offense in the sport and rarely ever gets stymied in fantasy production, regardless of matchup. Mahomes is the only quarterback I would consider in the first four rounds in such drafts. The rest of the mortal humans are in a separate class of their own.
Luckily, I was still able to build a very similar core to what I imagined, completing a 1-2 RB punch by taking David Montgomery in the third round. In an otherwise inconsistent Bears team, Montgomery remains an underrated premium talent, ranking as one of most elusive running backs in football. If the offense can take any sort of leap forward this season with the acquisition of first-rounder Justin Fields, Montgomery has a ceiling that is just too good to justify his current ADP.
How often RBs broke tackles as pass-catchers in 2020 per @SportsInfo_SIS. I don't like using elusiveness rating in a vacuum because it's easier to force a missed tackle as a receiver. This chart separates receiving from rushing: pic.twitter.com/WgKzrQfpbU
— Hayden Winks (@HaydenWinks) August 16, 2021
My next few picks all represented new, by in my opinion improved, situations for the fantasy game. With Cooper Kupp, I found an already-dominant PPR-format player who gets an upgrade at quarterback. With T.J. Hockensen, I found an athletic red zone target who I think has the highest probability of challenging George Kittle as the overall TE2 of the season. With the other pass-catching options on Detroit being slim, Jared Goff can definitely give Hockensen the volume and opportunity to be a PPR monster, especially since Detroit will likely play from behind often. To finish out my core, I took Kenny Golladay, one of the best players to switch teams this offseason. Golladay receives a downgrade from last year in quarterback skill but the opportunity is still there. With Evan Engram dissipating from the Giants’ primary offensive plans, Golladay’s skillset is enough to eat in every part of the field, including finding the end zone and making up for Daniel Jones’ inconsistency at throwing perfect passes.
— Ahaan Rungta (@AhaanRungta) March 17, 2021
Pretty content with the core I built, I spent the rest of my draft addressing depth whenever I could in case the fantasy football Gods victimized my talented roster through injuries or COVID-19. I found value in the volume of Brandin Cooks, the elite explosiveness of Odell Beckham Jr., and the matchup-winning potential of Mike Williams, especially since I want to leave every draft with some stock in the Chargers offense.
At the bottom of the draft barrel, I even made sure to back up my anchor Mahomes by taking my favorite quarterback from the 2021 NFL draft, Zach Wilson. The decision was deliberate as Mahomes’ bye week comes in Week 12, when Wilson gets to feast on the lackluster Houston Texans. Overall, I am happy that despite an early pivot, I stuck to my game plan of going for upside and depth late to recover and create a balanced roster. I’m a firm believer that drafts are where you set yourself up for success with steals like Williams and Beckham and the waiver wire is how you dominate and compete for a championship. It’s on to the regular season.
#5: Nic Civale (@NicoCiva1)
I have done a few mock drafts this past week in the 5-spot, and every time I ended up with a team that I liked, I started with RB-WR-RB combo in the first three rounds. Derrick Henry was an easy call for me, I probably would have taken him fourth overall if I had the slot. My second round was also a fairly easy decision, as I was between DeAndre Hopkins and DK Metcalf. Hopkins was taken a pick before. I’m also very big on JK Dobbins, having liked him since his time in college, so the first three rounds were without any difficult decisions. The first tough decision was deciding between Lamar Jackson in round five, and his teammate, Mark Andrews. I usually try to make it a point to get a top-five tight end, but ended up going with Lamar Jackson, and covering my bases a bit with the Baltimore offense. Rushing touchdowns as well as passing touchdowns will be mostly distributed between Dobbins and Jackson, barring any injuries.
My favorite mid-late round pick is a tossup between Jaylen Waddle and Michael Thomas. I am a big Dolphins fan, so being excited about Waddle is something I’m already doing, and it would be twice as nice to see him break out as a fantasy player as well. Thomas at around the eighth round was an easy call for me. I was considering him in the seventh round as well, because I think there’s a great chance that he and the Saints figure things out, and he comes back healthy enough after the first few weeks of the season. It wasn’t that long ago in which he was considered the #1 receiver in fantasy, and talent like that doesn’t just fade as quickly as this draft position might suggest. He could easily be a league winner if I can tread water for the first few weeks without him. I often go with the strategy; I think it can really give a team an advantage over others, if they have enough players and the correct draft style to get them through the first few weeks of the season without falling too far behind.
#6: Justin Johnson (@FF_Johnson)
Rarely do I enter a draft with a specific strategy. My strategy is to always be flexible, adjust to the flow of the draft, and most of all, feel good about the selections. If you come in with a specific strategy, that is how you get sniped and then reach for players at certain positions that likely should not go over players at other positions. A quick example is being near the end of the first-round and coming in with the plan to draft two running backs. If wide receivers like Davante Adams or Tyreek Hill fall to you, and yet you still force yourself to take a running back that likely isn’t as productive, you are drafting too specifically.
With the sixth pick, I wanted to grab a potentially elite running back in Saquon Barkley or Aaron Jones, as I feel the upside is there with either to surpass the value of any wide receiver. Since both are in the same tier, and I already own Jones in a league, I selected Barkley for his top three overall potential. Limited work early or not, Barkley is someone who could be averaging 20+ fantasy points a game for a majority of the season. Looking over the rest of my roster, it should be no secret that I like drafting for upside. CeeDee Lamb at pick #30, Javonte Williams at pick #43, Kyle Pitts at pick #54, and Jerry Jeudy at pick #67 are on brand as it gets for me taking upside in the early-middle rounds. Pitts is particularly my favorite pick, as he is destined to be top five at the tight end position, regardless of it being his rookie season or not. Past that, the pairing of Trevor Lawrence and Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback gives me huge upside when one or the other is playing a weaker defense.
#7: Mike Omelan (@mikeomelan)
My draft strategy is pretty simple. Take the best player available until you’re in need of a position. To me it doesn’t matter if you’re heavy on running backs or receivers early but just making sure you draft accordingly in the middle-to-later rounds to make up for your weaker position. In this draft I went receiver-heavy and hence didn’t end up with a running back until round three. It is key to take chances in the middle rounds and draft for upside with guys like Trey Sermon who could eventually take over the starting role in San Francisco and balance that upside with a safer option who you know will get touches.
I was super happy with the outcome of this draft. I think Davante Adams should be the fourth pick in drafts and is as safe as it gets in the first round. I doubled down at receiver because I think Calvin Ridley could finish the season in the top-3 at the position which gives me two of the biggest weapons in football. My next two picks are considered risky but I am a huge believer in Josh Jacobs and think Darrell Henderson could be a top-20 back this season in that Rams offense. I don’t love the Henderson pick as much due to the recent Sony Michel news but I still believe in Henderson and I think he can still become a valuable option at running back and lead the Rams in touches.
I think it’s key not to lose sight of your strengths so I went with Brandon Aiyuk in the fifth round. He’s a player with a ton of upside and I think gives me an edge during my wide receivers’ bye-weeks and at the flex position. As in my strategy, I went for upside with Trey Sermon and safety with James Robinson, who now receives an additional boost due to a season-ending injury to Travis Etienne Jr. It’s a reason I like going receiver-heavy as I feel there’s always more running back injuries which could lead to steals later on in drafts. My biggest downside is definitely at the tight end position. I do believe there’s some upside with Mike Gesicki and Cole Kmet but after the top-seven tight ends go I don’t think there’s a big rush to take tight end and it’s best to instead keep strengthening your depth.
#8: Mick Ciallela (@themick23)
My strategy was to land Christian McCaffrey in the first round, but somehow he was off the board by pick 8. Seriously though, knowing that this is a one-QB league with multiple FLEX spots, I figured I would wait on quarterback and draft as many running backs and wide receivers as possible. That strategy was fortified when I drafted Travis Kelce in the first round. After that, I kept hammering running backs and wide receivers. By the seventh round, 10 of the other 11 teams had selected a quarterback, so I knew I could wait a little longer for my QB. That didn’t exactly pan out as I had planned, because Team 12 (Michael Quintero) went QB-QB in rounds 9 and 10. I then grabbed Joe Burrow in the tenth round myself. Not my favorite pick, but I’ll manage. Outside of that, I was really happy with how my draft played out.
At the time of the draft, my favorite pick was Amari Cooper. He was the overall WR1 through the first quarter of the 2020 season, and I got him as a WR2. Even if he is not THE overall fantasy football WR1, he can still easily be A WR1 in that offense. As the week has unfolded, however, my new favorite pick is Laviska Shenault Jr. in the ninth round. The injury to Travis Etienne Jr. sucks, and James Robinson will be the primary beneficiary. But don’t underestimate Shenault. He may be the best fit to operate as Trevor Lawrence’s safety valve underneath. I would be happier if Shenault had the dual eligibility that he did last season, as now my RB depth has taken a hit. But Shenault has added value as a potential weekly FLEX with Etienne’s injury.
At the risk of sounding cocky, I really think I got good value in the last six rounds. Curtis Samuel was a top-25 fantasy WR last year, and I got him outside the top 50. I know Washington will bring him around slowly, but I can always bench him early in the season if need be. Phillip Lindsay may be a starting NFL running back in Week 1, so I was happy to grab him in the twelfth round. Rondale Moore has a ton of potential as Arizona’s likely slot receiver. I don’t like to put a ton of stock into preseason usage, but I like that Moore has been used on designed running plays. I do not believe that Bill Belichick would not have signed off on Jonnu Smith’s $50-million contract if he did not intend to use him. A 14th-round pick was a good place to speculate. Jakobi Meyers was New England’s best wide receiver last year, and I expect him to maintain that perch this season. And finally, Chuba Hubbard is worth a flier as a backup to Christian McCaffery as Mike Davis, the previous backup in Carolina, was a top-15 fantasy RB last season in half-PPR leagues once McCaffrey went down.
#9: Jorge Montanez (@Roto_Nino)
Given the depth at wide receiver and the 0.5 PPR format, I felt it was important to land a top running back with my first pick. I wasn’t the only one with that mindset as nine running backs were selected in the first round. With the ninth overall pick, I went ahead and selected Nick Chubb.
I took a difference-maker at the tight end position in George Kittle in the second round. And Terry McLaurin was my first receiver in the third round, one of the last of my top-12. Despite this being a one-QB league, I still like to set myself apart at the position. So, Kyler Murray was my pick in the fourth round, last year’s second-highest scoring fantasy quarterback. In the fifth, I paired Chubb with Kareem Hunt. The Cleveland offense supported two top-12 running backs last season with Chubb and Hunt finishing back-to-back at 10 and 11. Even if Chubb doesn’t miss any time, I felt Hunt could still provide week-to-week top 24 production at the position.
From there, it was all upside with 2021 first-round draft pick DeVonta Smith, Deebo Samuel, and A.J. Dillon. Dillon could be someone ready to explode onto the scene in Green Bay, even with Aaron Jones as the featured back.
#10: Ryan Kirksey (@KirkseySports)
Going into the draft, knowing it was 0.5 points per reception, I wanted to go RB-WR-WR in some order for my first three picks, making sure that my running back was someone who also caught passes. Picking from the 10-spot, that path clearly opened up when I was able to grab Austin Ekeler who should, at worst, catch the third-most passes among all running backs this season. Getting Stefon Diggs in the second round was just icing on the cake. After Team 9 (Jorge) sniped my first, my last, my everything, Terry McLaurin right in front of me in the third round, I pivoted to Chris Carson as I would be up again in four picks and was comfortable with the next handful of wide receivers in my queue. I then grabbed Chris Godwin and the secure floor of 7-8 targets per game in one of the league’s best offenses and didn’t look back. These four elite players set the foundation for the team and I could build from there moving forward.
I lamented the Ronald Jones pick when it happened and I felt even worse about it the next day. What was I thinking? His value is depressed in this format (and in football at large), and I should have gone with another receiver in my second FLEX spot with Robby Anderson and Corey Davis were still available. Jones is likely to be the worst pick of this draft, but a couple that could end up being the best are: KJ Hamler to Team 3 (Corbin) in Round 16, Laviska Shenault to Team 8 (Mick) in Round 9 (especially in light of the Etienne news), Mike Williams to Team 4 (Ahaan) in Round 9, and Zack Moss in Round 10 to Team 9 (Jorge).
#11: Taylor Lambert (@TaylorSLambert)
Lambert’s team was primarily auto-drafted as he was unable to make it to draft night.
#12: Michael Quintero (@WeekendMike)
Going into the draft, I wasn’t sure how many players people were going to reach on, so I wanted to make sure I had three running backs with my first six picks. Picking at the 12-spot, I was hoping to get Austin Ekeler, but he ended up going two picks ahead of me. So when my first pick came around, it was hard not to take Tyreek Hill then draft Najee Harris after. Hill will automatically be a top-three receiver and is such a safe choice as a WR1. I knew drafting last, I did want to grab Harris as I see him being the entire offense for the Steelers this year.
I drafted a little differently than I normally do by taking a quarterback in the third round in Josh Allen. But, I saw that as the highest value of a player who will average around 20 fantasy points per game.
My favorite picks of the draft were my fifth- and sixth-round picks going with 2021 first-round draft pick Ja’Marr Chase and Mike Davis. In a PPR league, I love Davis at that spot as he has no competition at all in Atlanta. Then Chase is a rookie, but I see him having a great rookie season and he has shown out in training camp so far. I’m pretty happy with my draft, but I plan on using the waiver wire a ton this year to build depth at my FLEX positions.
For more Rankings and Analysis please check out our full 2021 Fantasy Football Draft Kit.
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