We’ve all dreamt about the perfect draft. The mythical notion of everything falling in your favor throughout the snake, the ADP gods shining with favor upon your roster. Though it’s probably more of a blue-moon scenario for your real draft to play out in such an ideal fashion, that doesn’t make the what-if of it all any less entertaining.
For this article, we weren’t afraid to ask the question, what if? What if everything fell your way during your fantasy football draft this year? For this exercise, we went about answering that quandary by using FantasyPros’ Consensus ADP for Half PPR leagues. We’ll go round by round in an imaginary 10-team draft where we call all the shots to draft the ideal team. Our only rule is that the players selected in each round must fall within the ADP range corresponding to that round — in round five, for example, our player pool will consist of those falling between spots 41 through 50 in ADP. To beef up the difficulty slightly, we’ll throw an extra Flex spot into the mix.
Lineup: QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, TE, FLX, FLX, K, D/ST, 6 BNCH
Without further ado, here’s what the Perfect Draft might look like:
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1.6 Alvin Kamara (RB – NO)
With Kamara appearing at 1.4 in the ADP consensus, we don’t even have to bend reality too far to render this selection possible. That said, Kamara probably wouldn’t remain on the draft board this long in Full PPR — but the New Orleans’ primary weapon still provides quality value in the Half PPR format.
With Michael Thomas on the mend, the receiving corps for the Saints looks vulnerable behind preseason standout Marquez Callaway. The tight end room, unproven as it was, has also taken early hits on the injury front with Adam Trautman and Nick Vannett dinged up. Kamara should get all the volume he can handle in this offense. With Jameis Winston trending toward the starting quarterback job, Kamara’s upside in the passing game and on the goal line gets another boost. He’s a no-brainer if he falls to the middle of the first round.
2.5 Travis Kelce (TE – KC)
In deeper leagues, diving in on an early-round tight end is always a frightening proposition. In 10-team formats, though, landing the consensus TE1 in the middle of the second round would be akin to punching in a cheat code for your fantasy roster. Aside from the possibility of an injury, which exists for literally every player in fantasy, there’s no way for Travis Kelce to disappoint fantasy managers in 2021.
Kelce has finished as the TE1 in Half PPR formats each of the last three seasons — and by a considerable margin in each case. Last year, only three wide receivers topped Kelce’s 260.3 fantasy points. The TE2, Darren Waller, scored 35 fewer points and played an additional game than Kelce. No other tight end finished within 100 fantasy points of Kelce, who is locked into a role as a primary weapon for the most lethal quarterback in the NFL.
The positional advantage Kelce provides in smaller leagues is virtually unfathomable. If your 10-team league allows him to slip into the middle of the second round, don’t overthink it. Take Kelce.
3.6 Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB – KC)
Though Calvin Ridley technically falls within the acceptable player pool for this exercise as the 21st name on the Consensus ADP list, I couldn’t take him in good faith with the 26th overall pick. His average ADP is 20.0 on the dot — even in an ideal universe, I refuse to believe that you’ll ever see him fall to this pick. Though Justin Jefferson would be the top wide receiver in range, we’re going to wait on that position due to the tremendous value that exists later in the draft.
As a recent injury scare may depress Edwards-Helaire’s ADP, but we’re showing no fear in going back to the well for another piece of the Chiefs’ dynamic offense. Sitting at 22 in the Consensus ADP, Clyde Edwards-Helaire is the top running back that could conceivably hang around on the board until the middle of the third round in a 10-team league. Though J.K. Dobbins presents as a fine option, too, we’ll take CEH with the Half PPR boost expected to accompany the second-year back in a Patrick Mahomes-led offense. Though Clyde didn’t get a ton of passing work in 2020, Mahomes has been on record with his desire to integrate Edwards-Helaire more significantly this season.
Concern over CEH’s ankle injury should wane as the season approaches, as the runner has already returned to practice in a limited capacity. Locking him up as our RB2 allows us to dive head-first into the wide receiver pool for value in the upcoming rounds.
4.5 CeeDee Lamb (WR – DAL)
We’ve stumbled on the potential for a legitimate alpha WR1 in the fourth round. Lamb’s potential for a true second-year breakout is palpable with Dak Prescott returning to the Cowboys’ lineup. Even without Dak for a good portion of his rookie year, Lamb flashed a remarkable skill set. Though the offense is crowded with talents like Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup, Lamb’s upside as a go-to weapon stands above the rest.
This selection doesn’t necessarily track as the most sensible, per the consensus ADP data. Allen Robinson and Terry McLaurin might both be sitting on the board at this point in the draft. I have Lamb ranked above both players, though, as I believe his immense talent forces the issue in 2021. The 22-year-old should emerge as the top passing option in a potent Dallas offense. I’m taking the Cowboys wideout as my WR1 without hesitation in the fourth round.
5.6 Cooper Kupp (WR – LAR)
If a less-proven Lamb as your WR1 is a concerning prospect, you might be more inclined to roll with a “safer” option in the WR2 spot. Robert Woods fits this billing as a steady presence for your lineup. Steady presences don’t win 10-team leagues, though. We’re happy to ride with Cooper Kupp in the WR2 spot here.
Kupp had a disappointing season by his standards last year. At just 28 years old, though, it’s not as though his skills diminished — it was just one of those years in which negative touchdown regression hurt his fantasy output. Fortunately, Matthew Stafford represents a massive quarterback upgrade for Kupp. If the duo can establish a strong connection early this season, Kupp could return a double-digit touchdown season, which he accomplished during his overall WR4 finish (Half PPR) in 2019.
6.5 Tyler Lockett (WR – SEA)
In deeper leagues, you’ll have to pay up for Lockett as early as round four. Even in a 10-team format, the chance that he slips into the middle of the sixth round is incredibly slim. Based on Consensus ADP, however-Lockett stands at 51 — we’re not taking many liberties by allowing it to happen here.
Lockett had week-winning potential in 2020, and he flashed it on multiple occasions as a trusty weapon in Russell Wilson’s arsenal. When Russ stopped cooking, though, so did Lockett. With an offensive coordinator change in Seattle, I expect more consistency in the offense’s approach from game to game in 2021. Lockett should play a key role for the unit once again.
7.6 Javonte Williams (RB – DEN)
Chase Claypool is a ridiculously tempting snag at this point in the draft (Consensus ADP: 69), but after slamming wide receivers with our last three picks, it’s time to solidify our backfield depth with a shot at rookie with league-winning potential.
Javonte Williams won’t be a guy you’re excited to start early in the season, but in this 10-team format, we won’t have to deploy him in our lineup out of the gate. As talented rookie runners often do, Williams will likely pick up steam as the season evolves. The Broncos should add to his workload in the second half as the team prepares for his full-scale takeover of the backfield next season. The sturdy rusher out of UNC has the chance to become a household name by the fantasy playoffs.
8.5 Michael Thomas (WR – NO)
Is it weird how little football-related news we’ve heard on Michael Thomas in recent weeks? Though his name is constantly on the internet gossip pages, from a football perspective, it seems as though Thomas is quietly recovering from that ill-timed June ankle surgery. The initial prognosis had Thomas as a candidate for the PUP list to begin the season, though that designation hasn’t yet been determined. Even if Thomas is out of action through the Saints’ Week 6 bye, that doesn’t take him — or his elite skill set — off my radar.
Some industry analysts have Thomas on their “Do Not Draft” lists. In deeper formats, I understand the hesitance. Here, though, we’re talking about a bench stash with WR1 potential in the eighth round. There’s a high degree of risk involved in a Michael Thomas gambit in 2021. The upside is tantalizing enough to keep him on my draft board until more definitive news on his status filters into the public.
9.6 DeVonta Smith (WR – PHI)
Speaking of WR1s, Philadelphia hopes to have just drafted their new one in Heisman winner DeVonta Smith. The rookie out of Alabama will have to answer questions surrounding his diminutive stature. But ball don’t lie. And DeVonta Smith can flat-out ball.
Smith has some familiarity with Philadelphia’s quarterback, Jalen Hurts, from their college days. Both players are set to embark upon a 2021 season in which they’ll find themselves with plenty to prove to their respective detractors. I trust Smith’s football ability. And in a Philadelphia wide receiver room begging for an alpha to emerge, I think this 22-year-old is up to the challenge. Another upside pick late in your draft, Smith could emerge as more of a viable fantasy threat as the season goes.
10.5 Ryan Tannehill (QB – TEN)
There are so many supremely talented quarterbacks in today’s NFL. That’s probably the factor most responsible for pushing Ryan Tannehill so far down draft boards heading into the upcoming fantasy season. The Titans’ gunslinger checks in as the QB12 off the board at 92nd overall in Consensus ADP. However, his numbers as Tennessee’s starter have handily outpaced that draft price.
From Week 6 to the end of the 2019 season, Tannehill ranked as the QB4. Then, as the full-time starter last year, he finished the season as the QB7. He trailed only Kyler Murray, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, and Russell Wilson in fantasy scoring. That’s the list. He may not have the name recognition of any of those stars of the league, but Tannehill has provided value. Oh, and he just added Julio Jones to his receiver room. The guy is a sensational value in the 10th round.
11.6 Kenyan Drake (RB – LV)
Kenyan Drake fell perfectly into place as a pass-catching weapon out of the Cardinals’ backfield following a mid-season trade in 2019, but he saw that element of his skill set criminally underutilized in Arizona last season. Drake caught more balls in eight games with Arizona in 2019 than he did throughout the entire 2020 campaign. With fellow receiving back Chase Edmonds on the roster, it was as though the Cardinals demanded Drake fit the mold of an inside runner for the offense. It led to clunky results for his real-life team, though Drake finished strong to land a season-long fantasy finish among the top-15 running backs in Hall PPR scoring.
Now Drake has signed with the Raiders, which should land him in a more suitable role. Drake flashed as a receiver when he caught more than 50 passes in both the 2018 and 2019 seasons — the Raiders should use him in that style behind Josh Jacobs as the early-down bruiser. I’m not convinced that Drake’s role on his new team will contain enough work to land him with weekly fantasy relevance. Still, in the Half PPR format, he is a great depth piece with legitimate upside should Jacobs get hurt.
12.5 Michael Gallup (WR – DAL)
I know, I know, we already drafted CeeDee Lamb, so why get greedy? Here’s the thing, though. With Dak Prescott under center, the Dallas offense was a total laser light show last season. Flashing colors, loud noises, and bombs dropping everywhere you looked. Part of that was out of necessity because their defense simply couldn’t stop anybody. But with the Dak Attack expected back for 2021, this is still an offense that you want to target.
Michael Gallup profiles as an alpha wide receiver. He’ll probably land in precisely that role on a new team in 2022. For 2021, he serves as excellent depth and insurance if one of the Cowboys’ other top receiving options suffers an injury. If Amari Cooper, who has battled injuries periodically throughout his career, goes down for any reason, Gallup would become a weekly fantasy starter at wide receiver. Given Lamb’s presence as an early-round selection for this perfect draft, protecting that investment with Gallup is a great play at this late stage
13.6 Jamaal Williams (RB – DET)
The news out of Detroit camp on presumptive starting running back D’Andre Swift is not particularly encouraging. Earlier this week, Lions head coach Dan Campbell had an eye-opening quote on Swift that called into question his readiness for the beginning of the season.
More from Campbell on Swift re: Week 1: “We don’t know if he’s gonna be there. We don’t know, even if he is, how much we’re going to get out of him.”
— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurkeNFL) August 24, 2021
Though Swift still has plenty of time before he and his fellow Lions get to work biting off the kneecaps of their poor, unsuspecting opponents on September 12, these quotes from Campbell don’t inspire confidence. Enter Jamaal Williams, the running back Detroit lured away from the rival Packers in free agency. Given his usage in Green Bay, Williams was a trusted and valued player for that coaching staff. With questions over Swift’s early-season availability, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Williams grab hold of a more prominent role in Detroit’s offense than would have otherwise been expected. He’s a great wait-and-see addition for your bench late in drafts.
14.5 Darnell Mooney (WR – CHI)
There’s a narrative that has emerged surrounding Darnell Mooney that posits his selection by the Bears in last year’s NFL Draft may have saved the jobs of GM Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy in Chicago. Though the notion sounds a little absurd, there’s no question that the Bears liked what they saw from the fifth-round wide receiver out of Tulane during his rookie campaign in 2020.
With Justin Fields’ introduction to the starting lineup seemingly imminent at some point in the upcoming campaign, Mooney’s opportunity to leap onto the radar of Chicago’s new franchise quarterback makes him a fascinating late-round fantasy prospect in drafts this month. On a side note, if Allen Robinson ultimately leaves Chicago in free agency after the season, Mooney’s dynasty stock could take off like a rocket — provided his development continues on a consistent trajectory.
15.6 Elijah Moore (WR – NYJ)
Take your shot! As I’ll explain further down, this is an area of the draft where chucking blind darts on ascending players is the recommended strategy. Especially when drafting days or weeks in advance of Week 1, it makes sense to target rookies or breakout candidates who could play themselves into more substantial roles over the final days of training camp. After dealing with some nagging injuries earlier in camp, Elijah Moore is that kind of player.
The rookie wide receiver for the Jets has the chance to grow and develop rapport with fellow rookie Zach Wilson. Though Corey Davis looks like the WR1 in New York to begin the season, Moore’s splash-play ability could rise to the forefront sooner than later in 2021.
16.5 Trey Lance (QB – SF)
Trey Lance is my favorite name in the “rookie QB dart throw” category. His rushing upside makes him an incredibly exciting fantasy prospect. Though he is unlikely to begin the season as the starter in San Francisco, he’ll instantly become a top-10 option at the position if and when that happens. I love adding this player to the bottom of my bench, and since this is a perfect draft, I can do so without reaching.
If you’re not looking to stash a second quarterback in such a shallow league, Marquez Callaway (WR – NO) is the pick here, especially as insurance on the earlier selection of Michael Thomas. In an ideal draft, a perfect draft, you don’t draft a kicker or a defense. Stash Michael Thomas in an IR slot and pick up one of those positions after the draft. If no other injuries befall your team before Week 1, you’ll need to cut a player on Sunday morning.
The upside of potentially being allowed to stash an extra asset on your bench or IR, though, is a tremendous bonus. It’s well worth the risk of ending up with a lesser D/ST or K. You can stream those positions, anyway, so don’t bother drafting them at this point in the preseason.
We solidified a solid core with superstars anchoring the RB and TE positions. We then turned our attention to the WR room, targeting upside at every turn. The same strategy applied to the construction of our bench, as rookies and breakout candidates litter our reserve slots. The Michael Thomas pick might be controversial, but his timeline aligns nicely with the knowledge that we’re going to need roster room for a kicker and a defense at some point ahead of Week 1. Baking those kinds of strategic advantages into your fantasy season is another way to dominate your league.
Here’s a look at our likely Week 1 lineup following the Perfect Draft:
- QB: Tannehill
- RB: Kamara, Edwards-Helaire
- WR: Lamb, Kupp
- TE: Kelce
- FLEX: Lockett, Smith
- K: ???
- D/ST: ???
- BN: Jav. Williams, Drake, Gallup, Jam. Williams, Mooney, Moore, Lance
- IR: Thomas
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