2021 Experts Fantasy Mock Draft: Strategy tips, advice for 12-team standard leagues

2021 Experts Fantasy Mock Draft: Strategy tips, advice for 12-team standard leagues

Fantasy football draft season is in full swing in 2021, and mock drafts help you get an idea of what strategy to enact come draft day. An underrated aspect of mock drafts is you get to make mistakes. It’s like a trial run or anything else you’d practice for. Screw-ups will happen (trusting rankings too much, reaching too far for a sleeper, etc.), but you can learn from them as you progress toward your real draft(s).

Admittedly, I wasn’t 100 percent pleased with how the early part of the draft below turned out. Things didn’t go exactly how I planned — but they never will. It’s a perfect example of why it was beneficial for me to take part in a mock draft.

DOMINATE YOUR DRAFT: Ultimate 2021 Cheat Sheet

Below, I’ll dive into every pick and discuss what went right and what went wrong. What I did do well was find value in the late rounds — another underrated aspect of fantasy drafts. Everyone at the top of the draft is a stud. Finding sleepers and undervalued players at the bottom of the draft can give you a huge edge over your leaguemates.

One other note: Chase upside! In this draft, I didn’t make a habit of hedging my bets. Playing scared and taking the ‘safe’ route is a great way to make the playoffs but not win the league. You must chase upside if you want a chance at hardware come fantasy playoff time. I did that here.

One of my favorite tools for mock drafting is the Fantasy Pros Mock Draft Simulator, which allows you to complete a mock in minutes. To get more info on it, click here.

2021 PPR FANTASY RANKINGS:
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Kicker | Top 200

2021 Experts Fantasy Mock Draft: 12-Team standard league

* This draft was for a standard league that starts 1 QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs, 1 TE, 1 FLEX, 1 D/ST, 1 K, and has 6 bench spots

Round 1, Pick 4: RB Alvin Kamara, Saints. Weirdly, your first pick can be your toughest decision. That was the case for me, but I ultimately took Kamara in this spot. This decision may come with some pushback as people point out the Saints’ offense won’t be nearly as good. My question to those people — will it definitely not be, though? Last season, Kamara was the RB2 in standard (behind Derrick Henry). He did this despite Drew Brees missing four games and when Brees was on the field, he was a shell of his former self. The passing attack was nowhere near on par as it’s been in the past, yet Kamara still produced. I’m banking on Jameis Winston being the starter in New Orleans. With a gunslinger pushing the ball down the field to newfound fantasy sweetheart Marquez Callaway (and eventually Michael Thomas) in a Sean Payton offense and an elite offensive line, Kamara will continue to produce. Again, I’m taking off my safety blanket and ‘risk-avoidance glasses’ and chasing the undeniable upside Kamara presents.

2.21: WR DK Metcalf, Seahawks. After locking up an elite running back at the four spot, I decided to go with a stud receiver in DK Metcalf. I passed on Justin Jefferson, Keenan Allen, and AJ Brown on this pick. In PPR leagues, I would’ve preferred Jefferson and considered Allen, which is why it’s important to know who brings more value across each format. A popular strategy in the first two rounds is “RB hero,” but I didn’t feel great about the best available RBs on the board (Clyde Edwards-Helaire and JK Dobbins). Ultimately, I locked up a top-five wideout as the sixth WR taken off the board. As soon as I picked Metcalf, I knew I wanted to stack him with Russell Wilson later in the draft (as you’ll see soon).

2021 FANTASY TIERS & DRAFT STRATEGY:
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST

3.28: TE Darren Waller, Raiders. At the start of the third round is when I decided to go against the grain — zig when others zag. I confidently locked in Waller and possessed one of the three premier tight ends in football. The advantage of having an elite tight end cannot be overstated. My decision also had to do with the best RBs available on the board. I didn’t get a jittery feeling at the prospect of drafting Josh Jacobs and David Mongomery, so I took a TE who produces WR1 numbers (Waller would’ve ranked WR11 last year). Plus, with fantasy owners worried about another of my targets, D’Andre Swift (groin), he surely was going to fall to me in the fourth round right? Wrong.

4.45: RB Myles Gaskin, Dolphins. In fantasy drafts, it’s always important to look ahead. However, sometimes things just don’t play out the way you’d want them to. I wanted Swift, but he was taken a half-round earlier than my pick. Still, it was time to lock up another RB before the position dried up any further. My options were Gaskin, Javonte Williams, Mike Davis, or Darell Henderson. I don’t trust Davis, an RB who broke out at age 27, and despite anything Sean McVay was saying, I knew there was a good chance the Rams would add another RB. Ultimately, I was correct. News came out that Miami was planning to use a committee at RB, with Salvon Ahmed, Malcolm Brown, and Gaskin, but was that just coach speak? Here’s another example of chasing upside. I can cower down to the thought of RBBC possibility, or I can chase the upside of Gaskin, who averaged 12.3 FPPG (13th among RBs) in standard leagues just last season. The choice was easy using my upside detector.

2021 FANTASY SLEEPERS:
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Each team

5.52: WR Amari Cooper, Cowboys. Is Cooper really falling this late in the draft? Sign me up. In our standard top 200 cheat sheet, we have Cooper ranked at the 45 slot, so I grabbed him at a great value. Last year, Cooper finished as the WR19 in standard but did so with garbage QB play after Dak Prescott was lost for the season. That feels like the floor to me. Drafting a player at their floor is both safe and chases upside. It’s assumed CeeDee Lamb is taking a stranglehold on the WR1 job in Dallas, but is that really a certainty? I don’t think so. A top-10 finish is well within Cooper’s range of outcomes, so again this was an easy pick for me. I took him over the likes of Chase Claypool and Kenny Golladay.

6.69: QB Rusell Wilson, Seahawks. I got my Seahawks QB-WR stack — one of the top stacks in fantasy football. The stacking strategy is yet another demonstration of chasing upside. While I won’t write an essay on why stacking is beneficial, it’s an easy way to maximize explosive weeks from the Seattle offense. To read more about stacking, check out  fantasyfootballers.com. With the OC change in Seattle, all signs point toward “letting Russ cook.” I’m banking on that notion and got him an incredible value. FantasyPros ADP has him off the board at pick No. 50, and our cheat sheet has him at slot 43. At the end of the sixth round, I took a QB with a ceiling of the overall QB1. His floor remains around at least the top eight. 

2021 STANDARD FANTASY RANKINGS:
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Kicker | Top 200

7.76: WR DeVonta Smith, Eagles. FantasyPros ADP indicates Smith coming off the board around pick 81, well within the territory I took him. There are durability and QB-play concerns that follow Smith, but there’s also incredible upside. As the 29th wideout off the board in this draft, it’s easy to envision a scenario in which he outperforms his draft position. He may not step in as a WR1 right away, but I picked him in WR3 territory. As the Eagles’ No. 1 receiver, the former Heisman winner could reasonably produce middle-tier WR2 numbers. But again, even if he doesn’t, I’m only counting on him as my WR3. I took him over DJ Chark and Marquez Callaway. Chark is in a three-man race to be Jacksonville’s WR1, and Callaway’s ADP has gotten too expensive over the last few weeks. I would’ve considered him had he fallen later.

8.93: WR Tyler Boyd, Bengals. Boyd is among the most underrated WRs in real football and fantasy football. With Joe Burrow coming back into the lineup, and Ja’Marr chase reportedly struggling, Boyd could easily be the No. 2 or perhaps the No. 1 WR in Cincinnati. Here, I made a decision between him, Laviska Shenault, and Deebo Samuel. Looking back at it, I maybe should’ve opted to go Shenault in a standard league, but I’m still happy with the Boyd upside.

MORE 2021 FANTASY RANKINGS:
Superflex Top 200 | Superflex Top 200 PPR | IDP | Rookies | O-lines

9.100: WR Deebo Samuel, 49ers. It’s always fun when you can grab a player the round after you considered taking them. Samuel’s FantasyPros ADP sits at pick 87. While I’m not 100 percent sold on him, the value was strong. In his 2019 rookie season, he was 28th in FPPG among wideouts who played at least 11 games. At this point in the draft, if he comes anywhere close to that figure, the pick will pay off mightily. 

10.117: RB  Tony Pollard, Cowboys. I’m sure you’ve noticed my RB situation isn’t as pretty as some would like. You almost might say, “I thought you were chasing upside, why did you take a handcuff RB?” It’s simple really: Pollard is the handcuff RB with the single-most upside. If something did happen to Zeke, Pollard instantly has RB1 value with a presumed RB2 floor. Actually, possessing Zeke and drafting Pollard is limiting upside. If you take both, there’s little chance to play them alongside each other unless you’re really in a bind. That’s another case of bringing out the safety blanket. Pollard presents much more upside for your team without Zeke. 

Over a 17-game season, how likely is Zeke to play every game? Pollard still presents standalone value and will surely receive more work, as Zeke isn’t getting any younger. It’s also not impossible Zeke hits his cliff this season. In round 10, the highest-ranked RBs available consisted of Chuba Hubbard, Alexander Mattison, and Justin Jackson. Pollard’s ADP sits at 127, but the reach was necessary given how the draft played out so far and my need for an RB with upside.

2021 FANTASY TIERS & DRAFT STRATEGY:
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end |  D/ST

11.127: D/ST Pittsburgh Steelers. I’m not one who often plays in leagues with defense, so I relied on ADP. FantasyPros indicates the Steelers’ defense comes off the board at pick 106. I wasn’t a fan of the wideouts and backs on the board at this spot, so I pulled the trigger on my No. 1 defense heading into 2021. Our rankings list the Ravens and Buccaneers at Nos. 1 and 2, but that’s OK. It’s really a judgment call, but you want to be sure to take a top-tier defense if you’re the brave soul that picks one first. I’d hoped to start the run on defense, letting value at other positions fall to me. but it didn’t work out that way (the next defense was selected 10 picks later).

12.141: WR Russell Gage, Falcons. Before this pick, I put one of my personal favorite sleepers, Bryan Edwards, in my queue. However, he got sniped just one pick before me. I had to pivot, and decided on Gage (over Amon-Ra St. Brown and Henry Ruggs III). No, Gage has no realistic shot to be the No. 1 option in his offense, but it’s easy to see a Falcons air attack that produces two top-36 wideouts and a top-five tight end. If he does fall in the WR3 range, it’s a huge win for me at pick 141. Last year, he was WR40, and Julio Jones is now officially out of town, not just banged up for half the year.

13.148: WR Jakobi Meyers, Patriots. I have Kamara, Metcalf, Waller, and Wilson, yet Meyers might be my favorite pick in the entire draft. He is being disgustingly undervalued, and nothing being said about him is raising his ADP. He has a great shot at the No. 1 WR spot in New England, and when Mac Jones gets the nod to start at QB, Meyers will have an adequate passer distributing him the ball. Last season, Meyers ranked seventh in target share (26 percent) among all WRs. Being top seven in team target share is no lackluster feat. The additions of Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, and Nelson Agholor will likely cause that figure to regress, but he’s still going to be heavily targeted. Unlike Marquez Callaway, we can still call Meyers “under the radar,” and he’s one of our top sleepers heading into 2021.

MORE 2021 FANTASY HELP:
Mock Draft Simulator | Position battles | Bye weeks | Best team names

14.165: K Ryan Succop, Buccaneers. Do you really want kicker analysis? Fine. He’s the kicker in a Tom Brady-led offense and ranked seventh among all kickers last year in fantasy points.

15.172. RB Tevin Coleman, Jets  Here, I basically flipped a coin to decide between Coleman and Ty Johnson. Michael Carter is way too expensive, so I figured I’d grab a piece of the Jets ambiguous backfield with my final selection. No one knows how the touch distribution will go, and it’s likely to set up to be a pure committee. If those cases, taking a cheap piece of the committee is a smart move. Best case, Coleman takes a majority of the touches; worst case, my 15th round pick didn’t pan out and I work the waiver wire.

2021 FANTASY CONSISTENCY RATINGS:
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver  | Tight end

By the end of the draft, this is what my team looked like:

Starters

QB Russell Wilson, Seahawks
RB Alvin Kamara, Saints
RB Myles Gaskin, Dolphins
WR DK Metcalf, Seahawks
WR Amari Cooper, Cowboys
FLEX DeVonta Smith, Eagles
TE Darren Waller, Raiders
D/ST Steelers
K Ryan Succop, Buccaneers

Bench

RB Tony Pollard, Cowboys
RB Tevin Coleman, Jets
WR Tyler Boyd, Bengals
WR Deebo Samuel, 49ers
WR Russell Gage, Falcons
WR Jakobi Meyers, Patriots

FANTASY DRAFT STRATEGY:
Snake Draft | Auction | Best Ball | Dynasty/Keeper | IDP

You’ll notice I didn’t take a backup QB or TE. This goes along with my constant references of upside. Why hedge my bet on Wilson or Waller? Neither of them is going to see the bench except during bye weeks. I’m fine streaming a QB, TE, D/ST, and K when needed. If I decided to draft a backup quarterback like Derek Carr or backup tight end, such as Anthony Firkser, that limits the upside I can possess at more crucial positions.

This team will come down to how my RBs perform. I like the upside of all of them, but if they don’t perform well, I likely wouldn’t win this league. However, if I draft scared, I also wouldn’t win the league. If you ain’t first, you’re last, so coming in last taking risks v. playing safe and coming in fourth is no different to me.

I possess a top-five QB, RB, WR, and TE, and every player on my bench has a real shot to finish top 36 at their position other than Tevin Coleman. CHASE UPSIDE!