Fantasy football draft prep: 12 common mistakes to avoid

A dozen rules fantasy footballers must follow for consistent success.

Our annual “draft prep” series mostly caters to novice players, but every once in a while a veteran player requires a refresher on basics we may take for granted.

These rules are in no particular order, and they apply to all levels of experience among fantasy owners. Just as important as the “what you should do” to create a winner in fantasy drafting, avoiding simple pitfalls is a must.

1) Living in the past: Assuming successes and failures from last year automatically will carry over to this year’s results is a quick trip to Loserville. Each year is brand new and requires a reset of the old memory bank.

2) Stay sober: While it may seem silly, don’t let one draft party of hard boozing affect an entire season of fantasy football. Party it up after the draft and celebrate your soon-to-be championship roster.

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3) No one likes a homer: Well, except for that Homer. Heavily drafting players from your favorite team tends to lead to an entire season of hangover-filled Monday mornings. This also includes taking a specific player over a better option just because that player is on your favorite team. Be objective.

4) Draft by the rules: Not knowing your league’s scoring structure, lineup composition, and/or bylaws generally results in utter failure. At a minimum, it translates into lost points.

5) Stretch it out: Flexibility in fantasy drafts is essential. Gamers with a rigid strategy miss out on key value due to their inability to zig when others are zagging.

6) No F.O.M.O.: All too often owners will see or sense a miniature run at a position and overreact out of the fear of missing out. Always having a sound backup plan alleviates concern in this area.

7) Mocking mock drafters: “I don’t need preparation!” declares the eventual last-place owner on draft day. Everyone needs practice. Look back at all of the things in life that required some repetitions before you improved. Don’t take my word for it … ask your significant other.

8) Bye week blues: This cuts both ways — getting caught up in not paying attention to bye weeks as well as outright passing on talent because it would create multiple players at the position on bye. Later in the year, bye weeks are easier — not harder — to overcome due to months of roster manipulation.

9) Leaving money on the table: Specifically for those who participate in auctions, leaving any amount of money on the table is inexcusable. Spend it all, even if you have to pay up at the end of the auction on an inconsequential player.

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10) Peer pressure: Let’s face it, even seasoned veterans of fantasy don’t enjoy being ridiculed by 11 mates after making a questionable pick. There’s a major difference between being laughed at for taking a kicker in Round 1 and reaching a round or two for a sleeper at a skilled position.

11) ADP obsession: Time after time, owners get hung up on what the average draft placement suggests. It is merely a guideline, and whenever a service offering ADP compiles the data, it is impossible to completely weed out all variations and nuance. Look for ADP charts that offer date ranges and flexible sorting. Use it for nothing more than a ballpark idea of when positional trends typically begin.

12) Drafting to trade: For some unknown reason, every year I have gamers asking me about which players to target solely for trading purposes. Drafting players for a potential trade bargaining piece down the line is unwise. Way too much can (and usually does) go wrong in this scenario. This is where strictly choosing the “best player available” can lead to unwanted consequences.

Fantasy football PPR live draft review

A second PPR draft in mid-May showed a few different patterns emerge.

Much like with our May edition of the Mock Draft Series, out of respect for the hosts of this draft, no reference will be made to its identity so the content remains fresh on their end, nor will the entire draft results be published here.

The blurbs about my team below were provided to the draft host and will appear in a magazine as part of a larger evaluation of the draft. Before getting into my individual picks (we didn’t write up our final four), here are a few observations from an 18-round, 12-team, PPR draft.

  • This group was hyper-aggressive with selecting wide receivers early in the first round, especially atop the draft. Four of the first seven selections were wideouts, including Cooper Kupp going No. 3 overall. Detroit running back D’Andre Swift going 12th was the only thing close to a surprise in the opening round. Three tight ends and six receivers went in the second round. The rest were running backs.
  • The first QB came off the board was Josh Allen was taken with the fifth selection of Round 3, which is the earliest any quarterback has gone in the first three drafts of this series. Justin Herbert went with the final pick in Round 6, followed two spots later by Patrick Mahomes. Only Lamar Jackson (Pick 8:09) would go over the next 24 choices.
  • In the first 100 picks, 5 QBs, 42 RBs, 44 WRs and 9 TEs were taken. During the PPR draft a week prior, we watched 6 QBs, 39 RBs, 45 WRs and 10 tight ends.

Here’s a snapshot of the first 10 rounds broken down by number of positional picks:

1st: 8 RBs, 4 WRs
2nd: 3 RBs, 6 WRs, 3 TEs
3rd: 1 QB, 5 RBs, 4 WRs, 2 TEs
4th: 6 RBs, 6 WRs
5th: 3 RBs, 8 WRs, 1 TE
6th: 1 QB, 4 RBs, 6 WRs, 1 TE
7th: 1 QB, 5 RBs, 6 WRs
8th: 1 QB, 6 RBs, 4 WRs, 1 TE
9th: 5 QBs, 2 RBs, 2 WRs, 3 TEs
10th: 1 QB, 4 RBs, 6 WRs, 1 TE

My team

We were asked to write 35 words per pick to give a little insight as to our draft thoughts:

1:02) RB Austin Ekeler, Las Angeles Chargers: It came down to Derrick Henry being dominant one more time, Cooper Kupp as the safest pick here, or Ekeler remaining healthy. I was most concerned about not having a strong enough RB1 if I chose the wideout.

2:11) WR Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Knowing the drafter at the turn had an elite RB and presuming WR-WR was in play, I went with Evans before another back. It played out as expected. Evans and Keenan Allen were the best remaining WR1s.

3:02) RB Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns: I hoped Chubb would survive the turn, and my Round 2 decision paid off. Injuries and time-sharing concerns are real, but Chubb is a TD machine and gives me a legit RB1 as my second back.

4:11) WR Terry McLaurin, Washington Commanders: The debate was McLaurin and Courtland Sutton, who went with the very next pick. McLaurin has proven to be mostly QB-proof and makes for a quality WR2, even with Carson Wentz under center.

5:02) RB Damien Harris, New England Patriots: Three drafts, three Harris selections … it’s not that I’m necessarily a huge fan, but he’s a tremendous RB3. Thanks to Harris’ scoring prowess, none of the remaining backs were definitively better options at this stage.

6:11) WR DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals: A strong draft start afforded this gamble. Hopkins will miss six games, sure, but he’s a borderline WR1 lock in PPR upon his return. It’s not too often you can plug that kind of talent into your WR3 slot.

7:02) QB Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs: Securing my third-ranked passer in Round 7 ahead of the long end of my wait, Mahomes was tough to let pass. While the WR talent regressed, he makes players around him better and will be fine.

8:11) WR Allen Lazard, Green Bay Packers: Lazard may emerge as the top fantasy receiver in Green Bay after the Davante Adams trade. It’s worth a late-round wager to find out. At a minimum, he’s adequate depth for me while Hopkins is out.

9:02) TE Austin Hooper, Tennessee Titans: I’m much higher on Hooper’s rebound than most, and since I tend to wait on TEs, this one was a no-brainer. Tennessee’s WR situation is shaky, at best, and Hooper is an ideal fit for the system.

10:11) WR Kenny Golladay, New York Giants: Can the talented Golladay stay on the field? His quarterback situation could hold him back, but I’m willing to bank on Brian Daboll getting the most out of Daniel Jones. The rest is up to Golladay.

11:02) RB Marlon Mack, Houston Texans: I should’ve taken Tyler Allgeier over Golladay. The rookie went at the turn, forcing a pivot to Mack. A whole lotta “meh,” but he has a chance, which is all one can ask for this late.

12:11) TE Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears: Kmet is one of my favorites for a breakout season, and the third-year tight end covers my backside if the Hooper gamble doesn’t pan out. There’s legit TE1 potential in Chicago’s new offense.

13:02) RB Jamaal Williams, Detroit Lions: Since the Mack pick could go either way, a safe, reliable veteran was the target, and Williams fits the bill. Plus, D’Andre Swift has proven to be less than a model of health thus far.

14:11) WR Jamison Crowder, Buffalo Bills: In three years with Buffalo, Cole Beasley was a PPR powerhouse out of the slot, and Crowder should have little trouble assuming the role in this pass-heavy system. He provides excellent value-to-upside ratio.

Rounding out the draft: Arizona Cardinals RB Keaontay Ingram (Round 15), PK Daniel Carlson (Round 16), QB Jameis Winston (Round 17) and Miami Dolphins defense/special teams (Round 18).

Fantasy football mock draft series: May takeaways

Is it too early to pick up on trends in fantasy football mock drafts?

It is mid-May, and fantasy football drafts are gaining steam. A recently hosted industry mock is the source for this recap. Out of respect for the hosts of this draft, no reference will be made to its identity so the content remains fresh on their end, nor will the entire draft results be published here.

The blurbs about my team below were provided to the draft host and will appear in a magazine as part of a larger evaluation of the draft. Before getting into my individual picks (we didn’t select kickers of defensive teams), here are a few generalized observations from a 12-team, PPR draft.

  • In last year’s iteration, every Round 1 pick was a running back, minus a lone receiver (Tyreek Hill) chosen at No. 11 overall. This time out, we saw seven running backs and five receivers, including Cooper Kupp going at No. 2.
  • Five RBs came off the board in Round 2 in 2021’s draft, which mostly consisted of receivers. This year, a half-dozen backs, two tight ends, and a quartet of receivers made up the second stanza.
  • The first QB came off the board in late Round 4 (Patrick Mahomes) last year, and Josh Allen was taken with the last pick of Round 5 this time around. Mahomes went second with the final selection of Round 6, followed by Justin Herbert in early Round 7. Five more went in the next 30 choices.
  • In the first 100 picks of last year’s draft, 9 QBs, 37 RBs, 44 WRs and 10 TEs were taken. In this May’s version, we watched 6 QBs, 39 RBs, 45 WRs and 10 tight ends — no drastic changes. It’s nice to see more owners waiting on quarterbacks, though.
  • Drafting in the top eight is a great situation this year. You’re bound to come away with a legit No. 1 running back. There’s enough depth at the position to either go with a pair in the opening two rounds or alternate between RB and WR in the first four rounds while still coming away with a strong nucleus.
  • This theme also was on full display in 2021 drafts. Taking consecutive receivers to close out Round 1 wasn’t the ideal strategy, but the plan was to test it out. The position is so ridiculously deep that gamers can hold off, making the preferred strategy is to come out of the first three rounds with a single receiver.
  • Quarterback remains quite deep, too, with a viable starter being available into the 12th round. Tight end remains a little top-heavy, just like last year. Following the consensus top-six TEs — all of whom went in the first five rounds — the position gets really dicey. If you’re not comfortable playing the matchups, make sure to secure one of Mark Andrews, Travis Kelce, Kyle Pitts, George Kittle, Darren Waller or Dalton Schultz.

Here’s a snapshot of the first 10 rounds broken down by number of positional picks:

1st: 7 RBs, 5 WRs
2nd: 6 RBs, 4 WRs, 2 TEs
3rd: 8 RBs, 3 WRs, 1 TE
4th: 4 RBs, 6 WRs, 2 TEs
5th: 1 QB, 1 RBs, 9 WRs, 1 TE
6th: 1 QB, 3 RBs, 8 WRs
7th: 3 QBs, 4 RBs, 3 WRs, 2 TEs
8th: 4 RBs, 6 WRs, 2 TEs
9th: 3 QBs, 6 RBs, 3 WRs
10th: 3 RBs, 7 WRs, 2 TEs

My team

We were asked to write 35 words per pick to give a little insight as to our draft thoughts:

1:12) Stefon Diggs: In PPR, his sheer volume alone makes up for the lack of scoring prowess. The Bills actually could lean on him even more this year if Gabriel Davis and Jamison Crowder don’t step up as much as expected.

2:01) Deebo Samuel: I’m not overly worried about the standoff, but Samuel’s aerial exploits may suffer with Trey Lance starting. Samuel also isn’t likely to rush nearly as much as a year ago. Talent usually wins out, however.

3:12) J.K. Dobbins: A WR-WR start was a mistake at No. 12. I should have drafted Leonard Fournette, Javonte Williams or D’Andre Swift instead of Deebo. Dobbins was injured early enough to be healthy, but he’s not an RB1.

4:01) Damien Harris: Choosing an early-down running back with heavy TD dependence isn’t how this was drawn up in PPR. Breece Hall was a consideration, but Harris is a safer RB2 candidate, and that’s what I needed here.

5:12) Josh Allen: Allen’s high ceiling can carry my weak RBs, and I love the Diggs stack. I usually wait on QBs; after seeing all of the value buys, I won’t give in to the temptation again.

6:01) Mike Williams: His all-or-nothing nature is not ideal, but Williams’ role in such a reliable, pass-friendly system makes for a rock-solid WR3 to help offset my shaky RBs. A WR14 finish again? No, but WR25-30 is fine.

7:12) Rashaad Penny: This is what happens when waiting to draft running backs … you start stockpiling risk-reward types at the most volatile position. Penny’s late surge last year was as real as his injury history and backfield competition.

8:01) DeAndre Hopkins: After waiting too long to draft my first running back (insert Deebo joke here), Hopkins presented an interesting flex gamble. Yes, he’ll miss six games, but Nuk’s volume will be a nice addition upon his return.

9:12) Tyler Allgeier: Another RB without a receiving role, Allgeier enters a decent situation for a TD-heavy role. Cordarrelle Patterson’s age-30 breakout won’t be repeated, although both QB options will steal TD opportunities from the rookie.

10:01) Michael Carter: Breece Hall should steal the show, but if he struggles or gets injured, Carter’s versatility will be a welcomed addition to lineups. This sort of high-upside depth is what to look for after a WR-WR start.

11:12) DeVante Parker: Why not? He’s far from a true WR1, but Parker has a reasonable shot to lead this mediocre passing attack in fantasy production. Parker’s biggest enemy, as usual, will be his own body failing him.

12:01) Austin Hooper: Hooper didn’t just forget how to catch once he signed with Cleveland, a team that totally misused his skills. A lack of weaponry for Ryan Tannehill — in a TE-friendly system — piques my interest.

13:12) Khalil Herbert: OC Luke Getsy comes from Green Bay and was no stranger to incorporating a 2-to-1 committee approach in which the RB2 gets enough volume to matter. Herbert did his part last year, so this is a worthy gamble.

14:01) Donovan Peoples-Jones: In Year 2, he took a significant step forward while catching passes from a battered Baker Mayfield. Deshaun Watson is a tremendous upgrade, and Amari Cooper helps draw defensive attention. DPJ is a steal this late.

Drafting a fantasy football team over the weekend? Take this with you.

Snapshot view of player value based on the latest ADP trends

Fantasy footballers drafting this weekend still can go through all of our in-depth coverage, but if you’re short on reading time, here’s a one-stop shop approach for player valuation to take into your draft based on the latest ADP trends in PPR scoring.

2021 fantasy football draft advice: Sleepers, busts, value buys

Table legend

Profit potential
Bust/overvalued
Risky ADP
Inconsistent but effective
Safer than most

2021 fantasy football ADP cheatsheet

Pick ADP Name Pos Team Bye Notes
1 1.01 Christian McCaffrey RB CAR 13 Risky by virtue of ADP investment a year after playing only 3   games
2 1.03 Dalvin Cook RB MIN 7 Slight injury risk but well worth the price
3 1.03 Alvin Kamara RB NO 6 Will see extreme defensive scrutiny early in the year. Does   that even matter?
4 1.05 Ezekiel Elliott RB DAL 7 About as safe as they come at RB
5 1.06 Davante Adams WR GB 13 Lock to be the top WR, barring unlikely injury
6 1.06 Derrick Henry RB TEN 13 Mild risk from extreme workload, but built for handling it.
7 1.07 Aaron Jones RB GB 13 Workhorse in an ideal offensive system for his skills. Make   sure to handcuff A.J. Dillon.
8 1.08 Austin Ekeler RB LAC 7 132 attempts single-year high; Kamara-like PPR role validates   this spot.
9 1.08 Travis Kelce TE KC 12 Seems high to draft a TE, but he was top four as WR the 2 years.
10 1.10 Nick Chubb RB CLE 13 Arguably the best pure runner in the NFL in committed offense.
11 1.10 Tyreek Hill WR KC 12 Hard to argue with Hill in any scoring format. He does it all and as well as anyone.
12 1.12 Saquon Barkley RB NYG 10 Too rich for the risk; elite talent, poor circumstances this year.
13 2.01 Najee Harris RB PIT 7 Suspect OL, tons of weapons in passing game could negate large role.
14 2.02 Stefon Diggs WR BUF 7 Has fought through a knee issue of late but should be fine. Supremely consistent in 2020.
15 2.02 Jonathan Taylor RB IND 14 Tougher schedule, more defensive attention. Great OL, QB still a question mark.
16 2.03 Antonio Gibson RB WAS 9 Elite potential; could be top-five back if healthy as three-down guy.
17 2.05 DeAndre Hopkins WR ARI 12 2 missed games ever, 150+ targets six straight years.
18 2.06 Calvin Ridley WR ATL 6 WR1 in offense with few proven weapons on a team w/ weak defense.
19 2.07 Joe Mixon RB CIN 10 Durability concerns and suspect OL. Poor defense may limit rushing attempts.
20 2.07 D.K. Metcalf WR SEA 9 Freakish measurables, premium skill set, and excellent QB.
21 2.08 Clyde Edwards-Helaire RB KC 12 Year 2 breakout potential if offensive line holds up.
22 2.09 Darren Waller TE LV 8 Focal point of an offense that lacks proven playmakers.
23 2.10 Justin Jefferson WR MIN 7 Tough to see him being much better than 2020, but this is a reasonable price to find out.
24 2.11 Pat Mahomes QB KC 12 It’s hard to consider any QB being a safer bet. Just don’t reach above this ADP.
25 3.01 A.J. Brown WR TEN 13 Should be healthier and now has Julio Jones running interference. Awesome talent.
26 3.02 Keenan Allen WR LAC 7 Only 2 missed games in last 4 years; WR1 w/ great QB; yardage rebound coming.
27 3.02 David Montgomery RB CHI 10 Safe, fits the offense. Could lose TD chances if Justin Fields starts at QB.
28 3.04 James Robinson RB JAX 7 Back to RB1/RB2 borderline utility after the loss of rookie Travis Etienne.
29 3.04 Chris Carson RB SEA 9 Last of the possible RB1 workhorses with a track record of success.
30 3.05 George Kittle TE SF 6 Injury risk, QB concerns. Could live up to TE3, but safer bets in Hockenson & Andrews.
31 3.06 CeeDee Lamb WR DAL 7 Certainly has upside, but scoring more than 250 points to justify this ADP is a stretch.
32 3.06 Terry McLaurin WR WAS 9 Slight room for profit here; better value than Lamb, Kittle. No. 26 is ceiling.
33 3.09 Allen Robinson WR CHI 10 Possible QB change in the season is irrelevant after he thrived despite Trubisky/Foles in 2020.
34 3.09 Josh Allen QB BUF 7 Just far too good in ’20 to confidently say anything negative about him. Don’t reach above this spot.
35 3.10 D’Andre Swift RB DET 9 Injury risk but has serious upside in an offense starving for playmakers.
36 3.11 Robert Woods WR LAR 11 Rock-solid play over past few years and has a QB upgrade.
37 3.12 Josh Jacobs RB LV 8 Inconsistent, TD-dependent, has to share touches, OL overhaul a concern.
38 4.02 Miles Sanders RB PHI 14 Shaky OL, WRs may not scare defenders, QB who can steal TDs. Not encouraging.
39 4.02 Mike Evans WR TB 9 TD dependency, full season of Antonio Brown could eat into numbers.
40 4.04 Amari Cooper WR DAL 7 Injury risk, CeeDee Lamb is ascending … saving grace is Dak loves Cooper.
41 4.04 Kyle Pitts TE ATL 6 Extremely high placement for a rookie TE, but he’s not like any other rookie TE.
42 4.05 Kyler Murray QB ARI 12 Guaranteed volume and offers bonus points on the ground; QB1 overall upside.
43 4.06 Cooper Kupp WR LAR 11 Room for slight profit after WR4 overall in 2019; no worse than mid-WR2 in PPR.
44 4.07 Mike Davis RB ATL 6 Can he do it for a full year basically by himself?
45 4.08 Diontae Johnson WR PIT 7 Poised to repeat strong showing from a year ago. Arguably the safest of all PIT WRs.
46 4.08 Darrell Henderson RB LAR 11 Talented, but will lose touches to Sony Michel & has durability concerns of his own.
47 4.10 Myles Gaskin RB MIA 14 Don’t worry much about other RBs on MIA. Gaskin is easily the most gifted.
48 4.11 Julio Jones WR TEN 13 If healthy, possibly a top-20 overall player. Slight risk, but crazy potential.
49 4.12 Chris Godwin WR TB 9 Injuries in 2020 robbed him, but will Evans, AB, Gronk, Gio Bernard, etc. do it this year?
50 5.01 Tyler Lockett WR SEA 9 Elite WR in D.K. Metcalf protects Lockett and helps his odds of thriving. Strong value here.
51 5.02 Lamar Jackson QB BAL 8 Should be better than last year. Mid-tier QB1 is an appropriate value.
52 5.03 Gus Edwards RB BAL 8 Benefits greatly from the unfortunate injury suffered by J.K. Dobbins.
53 5.03 Mark Andrews TE BAL 8 Lamar Jackson’s BFF and has double-digit TD upside. Super safe with upside = win.
54 5.04 Javonte Williams RB DEN 11 Melvin Gordon is just a dude. Williams steals the job at some point this year.
55 5.05 Adam Thielen WR MIN 7 Way too dependent on TDs last year. Now 31 years old, No. 2 behind Jefferson.
56 5.06 Kareem Hunt RB CLE 13 Instant RB1 if Nick Chubb misses time again. Still has flex role if not. Handcuffing pair is advised.
57 5.07 Damien Harris RB NE 14 Has struggled to stay healthy even as a backup; great opportunity, but not a lock.
58 5.07 Brandon Aiyuk WR SF 6 Wildly talented. Will QB situation hold him back? Doubtful, since he is money after the catch.
59 5.08 T.J. Hockenson TE DET 9 One of the surest bets in fantasy for leading his team in targets.
60 5.10 D.J. Moore WR CAR 13 QB change shouldn’t make much of a difference. If Bridgewater kept him relevant, Darnold can, too.
61 5.11 Aaron Rodgers QB GB 13 Last ride in the green and gold? Rodgers has incentive to be close to as good as last year.
62 6.01 Tee Higgins WR CIN 10 Joe Burrow keyed in on him in 2020. Defense is weak, which promotes passing volume. Nice WR2.
63 6.01 Chase Edmonds RB ARI 12 RB plays 2nd fiddle to ARI WRs; Murray & Conner will steal TDs; PPR upside, though.
64 6.02 Raheem Mostert RB SF 6 Major durability questions; studly rookie waiting to take over.
65 6.02 Chase Claypool WR PIT 7 Huge play can happen on any touch, but so many mouths to feed, plus more running expected.
66 6.04 Jerry Jeudy WR DEN 11 Ideal skill set for Teddy Bridgewater’s deliberate ways and   precision accuracy.
67 6.05 Dak Prescott QB DAL 7 No worries about his ankle. Bombs away! Great value placement, too.
68 6.07 Trey Sermon RB SF 6 Should overtake starting job at some point in 2021. Perfect fit for system.
69 6.08 Russell Wilson QB SEA 9 Ignore last year’s second half. Too talented, too many weapons.
70 6.08 Odell Beckham Jr WR CLE 13 ACL tear not as much of a concern for a WR, but run-first offense, lacks QB chemistry.
71 6.10 Logan Thomas TE WAS 9 Broke out at age 29 after a position change. Curtis Samuel should interfere with targets.
72 6.10 Justin Herbert QB LAC 7 Fantasy darling, but he does have a new offense, so don’t get too overzealous. Fair value here.
73 6.11 Michael Thomas WR NO 6 Misses first 5 games, may return after Week 6 bye. Too much uncertainty in 1st half of drafts.
74 6.12 Antonio Brown WR TB 9 Soaring stock right now; was on pace for 90 catches last year; Tom Brady loves him.
75 7.02 Melvin Gordon RB DEN 11 Only a matter of time before rookie Javonte Williams replaces him.
76 7.02 Robby Anderson WR CAR 13 Sound value. Sam Darnold loved him in New York.
77 7.04 Michael Carter RB NYJ 6 Undersized rookie RB in a time share on a team with a terrible defense. Iffy.
78 7.06 DeVonta Smith WR PHI 14 WR1 talent. QB question marks. Durability may be an issue for  slender build.
79 7.06 Ronald Jones II RB TB 9 A billion receiving targets, Leonard Fournette & Gio Bernard to fight with for touches. No thanks.
80 7.07 Tom Brady QB TB 9 Despite his body ignoring Father Time, there is risk. The ADP is fair, but nab a quality backup.
81 7.07 A.J. Dillon RB GB 13 Might be inconsistent; has enormous TD potential. Becomes RB1 if something happens to Jones.
82 7.07 Ja’Marr Chase WR CIN 10 Has battled drops after taking a year off in 2020 FBS season. Good situation but could take time.
83 7.08 Noah Fant TE DEN 11 If healthy, look for chemistry with his accurate QB. Volume may be inconsistent.
84 7.10 JuJu Smith-Schuster WR PIT 7 Role change has yielded high-volume, low-yardage results.
85 7.12 Laviska Shenault Jr. WR JAX 7 Serious upside here. Came on strong late last year, has a legit QB1 now.
86 7.12 Courtland Sutton WR DEN 11 ACL recovery is 100%. Looking like former self. Will benefit from Bridgewater’s ball placement.
87 7.12 Zack Moss RB BUF 7 Will pop off a few big games in 2021. Fights QB for TDs, loses 3rd-down work.
88 7.12 Kenny Golladay WR NYG 10 Already a question mark for Week 1 with a hamstring issue. Terrible QB situation. Avoid.
89 8.01 Matthew Stafford QB LAR 11 Ideal offensive fit, great weaponry; may not be a 5k volume guy but has high floor.
90 8.02 Robert Tonyan Jr. TE GB 13 Way too reliant on TDs last year; disappeared when not in the end zone. But, worth the pick.
91 8.04 Marquez Callaway WR NO 6 Jameis Winston’s WR1 while Michael Thomas is out first 5 games has season-long utility.
92 8.05 Corey Davis WR NYJ 6 Zach Wilson loved him in the preseason. Fair market value here.
93 8.06 Leonard Fournette RB TB 9 Lombardi Lenny will be more comfy in offense now, but so many mouths to feed.
94 8.07 Jamaal Williams RB DET 9 D’Andre Swift (groin) still isn’t 100%. Williams will return on this ADP and then some.
95 8.07 Sony Michel RB LAR 11 Has to learn offense quickly; could be slow to start, but nice depth for 2nd half of season.
96 8.08 Deebo Samuel WR SF 6 Could be considered an injury liability. QB situation is disconcerting to a degree. Risk-reward WR3.
97 8.09 Tyler Higbee TE LAR 11 Huge upgrade at QB; not a volume TE, but could see starting-worthy spurts during the year.
98 8.10 Devin Singletary RB BUF 7 Zack Moss & Josh Allen damper his upside. Best drafted as an RB4 in PPR.
99 8.11 Ryan Tannehill QB TEN 13 Nice consolation if you choose to wait on the position.
100 9.01 James Conner RB ARI 12 Flex upside if he stays on the field. Will be reliant on TDs more than most RBs.
101 9.02 Tyler Boyd WR CIN 10 Could be a strong PPR guy early in the year while Ja’Marr Chase gets up to speed.
102 9.03 Dallas Goedert TE PHI 14 Zach Ertz remains on the team & likely isn’t going anywhere. Goedert isn’t as appealing as in June.
103 9.04 Jaylen Waddle WR MIA 14 Elite physical traits but undersized rookie who may need time. QB is still a work-in-progress.
104 9.04 Jalen Hurts QB PHI 14 Rushing ability should be his defining characteristic
105 9.05 Mecole Hardman WR KC 12 Even in Round 9, it’s tough to see him making a dent outside of a few splash plays.
106 9.07 Kenyan Drake RB LV 8 Could be a hot-hand scenario. Josh Jacobs has durability issues. Drake is intriguing depth.
107 9.07 Michael Pittman Jr. WR IND 14 Huge profit potential if Carson Wentz stays healthy. No T.Y. Hilton (neck) is a huge W for Pittman.
108 9.08 Tony Pollard RB DAL 7 Will be a top-5 back if something happens to Zeke. Pollard does it all and really well.
109 9.09 Brandin Cooks WR HOU 10 Assuming no Deshaun Watson, Cooks still can outdo this ADP. He has performed at every stop.
110 9.10 Phillip Lindsay RB HOU 10 One of three, maybe four, RBs in a rotation. Shaky OL, uncertain QB situation. Fade.
111 9.12 Alexander Mattison RB MIN 7 Handcuff to Dalvin Cook. Speculative buy as an RB4/5.
112 9.12 Pittsburgh Defense DEF PIT 7 No valid reason to draft any defense this early.
113 10.01 Darnell Mooney WR CHI 10 WR2 gets shielded behind Allen Robinson. QB situation is so-so, but Mooney is legit.
114 10.03 LA Rams Defense DEF LAR 11 No valid reason to draft any defense this early.
115 10.04 Jakobi Meyers WR NE 14 Could emerge as a sneaky PPR guy, but there’s as much upside as downside.
116 10.05 Joe Burrow QB CIN 10 ACL is behind him. Awful defense will lead to huge passing volume. Has the WRs to shine.
117 10.05 D.J. Chark WR JAX 7 Already looking like an injury waiting to happen with persistent dings and dents.
118 10.07 Mike Gesicki TE MIA 14 Consistent, has chemistry with QB. The last of the TE1s to be confident about drafting.
119 10.07 J.D. McKissic RB WAS 9 Won’t be RB17 again, but this late he’s all profit, even with Curtis Samuel here.
120 10.09 Tampa Bay Defense DEF TB 9 No valid reason to draft any defense this early.
121 10.09 Mike Williams WR LAC 7 The nature of Williams is inconsistency. Effective when he hits, but good luck guessing when that is.
122 10.11 Trey Lance QB SF 6 Polarizing, but legs will keep him afloat if he enters the lineup. Don’t reach for him.
123 10.11 Jarvis Landry WR CLE 13 About as safe and solid as you’ll find in PPR. Baker Mayfield gravitates toward Juice.
124 10.12 Nyheim Hines RB IND 14 Nice PPR buy for the occasional start to cover byes or injuries.
125 10.12 David Johnson RB HOU 10 Too many RBs. Poor QB outlook. WRs are sketchy. OL is worse. Don’t bother.
126 11.01 Rhamondre Stevenson RB NE 14 Rookie phenom in the preseason is a Damien Harris injury away from fantasy stardom.
127 11.01 Giovani Bernard RB TB 9 Already nicked up (ankle). Pigeon-holed as a 3rd-down back. So many other targets. Yuck.
128 11.02 Washington Defense DEF WAS 9 No valid reason to draft any defense this early.
129 11.03 Henry Ruggs III WR LV 8 Miserable rookie year, but is an incredible athlete who is still learning. Give him a WR4 stab.
130 11.04 Justin Fields QB CHI 10 Will struggle to maintain consistency. Legs are his best weapon as he learns the ropes. Don’t reach.
131 11.05 Marvin Jones WR JAX 7 Shoulder injury has his stock down. Will play in Week 1. Awesome QB, terrible defense. Big value.
132 11.08 Jonnu Smith TE NE 14 Can score from anywhere as a TE. Rookie QBs like the position. Smith will be erratically productive.
133 11.08 Will Fuller WR MIA 14 Suspended 1 game. New offense, QB. One-trick pony as a deep threat. Meh.
134 11.09 Chuba Hubbard RB CAR 13 Even with Royce Freeman’s signing, the rookie could thrive if McCaffrey gets hurt again. Handcuff.
135 11.09 James White RB NE 14 Arrow points north now that Cam Newton is gone. White will be a PPR specialist again.
136 11.10 Baltimore Defense DEF BAL 8 No valid reason to draft any defense this early.
137 11.11 Irv Smith Jr. TE MIN 7 DO NOT DRAFT — Likely out for the season. TE Chris Herndon replaces, worth a late-round gamble.
138 11.11 Elijah Moore WR NYJ 6 May eventually take over as the primary slot guy, but there’s no worthwhile profit, even this late.
139 11.11 Matt Ryan QB ATL 6 Loses Julio Jones, gains Kyle Pitts. Ryan will take a step back but volume is on his side.
140 12.01 Latavius Murray RB NO 6 Should fend him off Tony Jones. Fantasy value solely linked to scoring TDs.
141 12.01 Baker Mayfield QB CLE 13 Run-heavy offense. Tons of weapons, but chemistry with TEs & OBJ has yet to materialize.
142 12.01 Russell Gage WR ATL 6 Stepped up after Julio went down last year. Kyle Pitts will steal looks, but nice PPR value here.
143 12.03 Justin Tucker PK BAL 8 No valid reason to draft any kicker this early.
144 12.03 Michael Gallup WR DAL 7 Say something happens to Amari Cooper (ankle) or CeeDee Lamb. Instant WR2 option.
145 12.03 San Francisco Defense DEF SF 6 No valid reason to draft any defense this early.
146 12.05 Jameis Winston QB NO 6 Needs to get the most out of unproven WRs w/o Michael Thomas. Improves in 2nd-half of year.
147 12.06 Rob Gronkowski TE TB 9 Should be better in than in ’20. May not be any more consistent, however.
148 12.07 Harrison Butker PK KC 12 No valid reason to draft any kicker this early.
149 12.07 Indianapolis Defense DEF IND 14 No valid reason to draft any defense this early
150 12.07 Marquise Brown WR BAL 8 Injury risk, sure, but few receivers have his wheels, and Lamar has a cannon.
151 12.08 Tevin Coleman RB NYJ 6 Chance to resurrect his career behind a beefy OL. Porous defense & rookie QB working against him.
152 12.08 Younghoe Koo PK ATL 6 No valid reason to draft any kicker this early.
153 12.09 Curtis Samuel WR WAS 9 Coaching staff couldn’t get anything out of him in CAR, so little confidence they can in WAS.
154 12.09 Trevor Lawrence QB JAX 7 Awesome QB2 target for upside. Even could be a rotational starter if that’s your thing.
155 12.10 Rashaad Penny RB SEA 9 Injuries up the wazoo for the former first-rounder. He’s a fringe backup target at this point.
156 12.11 Greg Zuerlein PK DAL 7 No valid reason to draft any kicker this early.
157 13.01 Jason Sanders PK MIA 14 No valid reason to draft any kicker this early.
158 13.01 New England Defense DEF NE 14 Should improve at getting to the QB from last year’s weak showing.
159 13.02 Ben Roethlisberger QB PIT 7 Arm didn’t fall off in 2020 after elbow surgery. So many weapons. Solid value buy as QB2.
160 13.03 Tyler Bass PK BUF 7 No valid reason to draft any kicker this early.
161 13.04 Rondale Moore WR ARI 12 Talented rookie but undersized and need help for enough PT to consistently matter.
162 13.04 Ryan Succop PK TB 9 No valid reason to draft any kicker this early.
163 13.04 Gabriel Davis WR BUF 7 Could thrive once again after strong rookie season. Likely top WR if Stefon Diggs got hurt.
164 13.06 Terrace Marshall Jr. WR CAR 13 Up-and-coming fantasy stud; rookie outplayed veteran David Moore and will matter some weeks.
165 13.06 Rodrigo Blankenship PK IND 14 No valid reason to draft any kicker this early.
166 13.07 Matt Prater PK ARI 12 No valid reason to draft any kicker this early.
167 13.07 Jared Cook TE LAC 7 Reunited with Joe Lombardi, a Sean Payton disciple. Excellent QB, good but not great WRs.
168 13.07 Darrel Williams RB KC 12 Nice handcuff for CEH and at a bargain price, too.
169 13.08 Zach Wilson QB NYJ 6 Showed promise as to why he was the No. 2 pick in the draft. At best, QB3 in deep leagues.
170 13.09 Hunter Henry TE NE 14 Like Jonnu Smith, Henry benefits from Mac Jones starting. But this will be a bumpy ride some weeks.
171 13.09 Kenneth Gainwell RB PHI 14 Strong preseason won him the top backup job to Miles Sanders. Handcuff and upside for more.
172 13.10 Cole Beasley WR BUF 7 Has his QB’s eye but also could be a liability based on COVID protocols.
173 13.10 Bryan Edwards WR LV 8 Love the upside here for a 6-foot-3, 4.45-second 40 guy. LV desperately needs a WR to make plays.
174 13.10 Denver Defense DEF DEN 11 Awesome schedule, could surprise
175 13.11 Cleveland Defense DEF CLE 13 Has the front line to get there and mask question marks elsewhere on this defense.
176 13.12 Tony Jones Jr. RB NO 6 Intriguing late-round flier as RB5/6
177 13.12 Buffalo Defense DEF BUF 7 Sound buy at an appropriate price if the rest of your league is foolishly reaching for defenses.
178 14.01 Tua Tagovailoa QB MIA 14 Slowly showing he is figuring it all out. Has the weapons to be a spot-starter.
179 14.01 Evan Engram TE NYG 10 Injured already (again). Even when healthy, struggled to make a difference in 2020.
180 14.01 Pat Freiermuth TE PIT 7 Tough not to like him, but Eric Ebron is the starter, and this offense is loaded.
181 14.01 Gerald Everett TE SEA 9 Has Russ’ eye already. Knows offense from LAR, and could emerge with an injury at WR.
182 14.02 Mark Ingram RB HOU 10 Probably washed up. Either way, the situation is dreadful.
183 14.03 Zach Ertz TE PHI 14 Wants to stay in Philly. Still could get traded at some point, but he’s shaping up to be a value.
184 14.03 Devontae Booker RB NYG 10 Handcuff for Saquon Barkley owners
185 14.03 Amon-Ra St. Brown WR DET 9 Polished rookie with a tremendous opportunity on a bad team. Love him as a WR5. Flex upside.
186 14.03 Mac Jones QB NE 14 Beat out Cam Newton for the starting gig. Improves players around him. Iffy fantasy value, though.
187 14.04 Damien Williams RB CHI 10 Handcuff for David Montgomery. Knows the offense and fresh after sitting out 2020.
188 14.04 Mason Crosby PK GB 13 A kicker behind a prolific offense … so there’s that going for the veteran.
189 14.06 Randall Cobb WR GB 13 While Aaron Rodgers begged for him, it doesn’t mean he has weekly use in fantasy.
190 14.06 A.J. Green WR ARI 12 Hall-of-Fame talent, career decimated by injuries. Worthwhile flier at this stage, but may be toast.
191 14.07 Kirk Cousins QB MIN 7 Gets a bad rap but has finished outside of top-11 QBs once in last five years.
192 14.07 Robbie Gould PK SF 6 Veteran kicker, so-so offense = recipe for field goal tries.
193 14.08 Matt Gay PK LAR 11 LAR’s 3 kickers in 2020 combined for the 11th-most FGAs.
194 14.09 DeVante Parker WR MIA 14 All comes down to staying healthy and showing he’s on the same page as Tua. Worth the risk.
195 14.10 Miami Defense DEF MIA 14 Loaded with talent but playing in a division that has improved.
196 14.12 Tyrell Williams WR DET 9 Sat out all of 2020 w/ shoulder injury. Play-action deep threat on a team w/o a defense.
197 14.12 Justin Jackson RB LAC 7 Could be a nice pickup this late if something happens to Austin Ekeler.
198 15.03 Jason Myers PK SEA 9 Finished PK12 last year despite kicking the 22nd-most FGAs. XPAs kept him alive.
199 15.08 Wil Lutz PK NO 6 Injured, shouldn’t be drafted, but he’s a waiver target upon his return.
200 15.11 Daniel Carlson PK LV 8 Tied for PK1 in most scoring formats last year. Great value for a PK, if there is such a thing.

Fantasy football primer for the last draft weekend of 2021

Drafting this weekend? We have you covered for everything needed to dominate.

Drafting a fantasy football team this weekend? The Huddle has you covered for everything needed to dominate in the final weekend before the 2021 NFL season begins.

Week 1 is merely days away, but there’s still time to draft a winner, and this being The Huddle’s 25th season online is a testament to our dedication to making you a champion!

It’s not too late to sign up for The Huddle and dominate!

Let’s not waste any more time and get right into what you must know ahead of the big draft weekend.

Fantasy football player news

Gamers can stay on top of the latest transactions, injury news, and more by following our Huddle news feed.

Fantasy football draft-day rules to live by

These rules are in no particular order, and they apply to all levels of experience among fantasy owners. Just as important as the “what you should do” to create a winner in fantasy drafting, avoiding simple pitfalls is a must.

1) Living in the past: Assuming successes and failures from last year automatically will carry over to this year’s results is a quick trip to Loserville. Each year is brand new and requires a reset of the old memory bank.

2) Stay sober: While it may seem silly, don’t let one draft of hard boozing affect an entire season of fantasy football. Party it up after the draft and celebrate your soon-to-be championship roster.

3) No one likes a homer: Well, except for that Homer. Heavily drafting players from your favorite team tends to lead to an entire season of hangover-filled mornings. This also includes taking a specific player over a better option just because that player is on your favorite team. Be objective.

4) Draft by the rules: Not knowing your league’s scoring structure, lineup composition, and/or bylaws generally results in utter failure. At a minimum, it translates into lost points.

5) Stretch it out: Flexibility in fantasy drafts is essential. Gamers with a rigid strategy miss out on key value due to their inability to zig when others are zagging.

6) Resist F.O.M.O.: All too often owners will see or sense a miniature run at a position and overreact out of the fear of missing out. Always having a sound backup plan alleviates concern in this area.

7) Mocking mock drafters: “I don’t need preparation!” declares the eventual last-place owner on draft day. Everyone needs practice. Look back at all of the things in life that required some repetitions before you improved. Don’t take my word for it … ask your spouse.

8) Bye week blues: This cuts both ways — getting caught up in not paying attention to bye weeks and outright passing on talent because it would create multiple players at the position on bye. Later in the year, bye weeks are easier — not harder — to overcome due to months of roster manipulation.

9) Leaving money on the table: Specifically for those who participate in auctions, leaving any amount of money on the table is inexcusable. Spend it all, even if you have to pay up at the end of the auction on an inconsequential player.

10) Peer pressure: Let’s face it, even seasoned veterans of fantasy don’t enjoy being ridiculed by 11 mates after making a questionable pick. There’s a major difference between being laughed at for taking a kicker in Round 1 and reaching a round or two for a sleeper at a skilled position.

11) ADP obsession: Time after time, owners get hung up on what the average draft placement suggests. It is merely a guideline, and anytime a service offering ADP compiles the data, it is impossible to weed out all variations and nuance. Use it for nothing more than a ballpark idea of when positional trends typically begin.

12) Drafting to trade: For some unknown reason, every year I have gamers asking me about which players to target solely for trading purposes. Drafting players for a potential trade bargaining piece down the line is unwise. Way too much can (and usually does) go wrong in this scenario.

Fantasy football draft prep series

Fantasy football customizable rankings*

*Requires a subscription to The Huddle’s draft guide

Quarterbacks rankings

  1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
  2. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
  3. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
  4. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
  5. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

Running backs rankings

  1. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
  2. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
  3. Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
  4. Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts
  5. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

Wide receivers rankings

  1. Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills
  2. Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers
  3. Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs
  4. DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals
  5. Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons

Tight ends rankings

  1. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
  2. Darren Waller, Las Vegas Raiders
  3. George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers
  4. T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions
  5. Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons

Fantasy football sleepers and busts*

*Requires a subscription to The Huddle’s draft guide

Fantasy football freebies

Fantasy football strength of schedule series

Passing | Rushing | Receiving

Latest fantasy football player spotlights

Don’t forget, you still can join The Huddle even if you’ve drafted. Our team of experts will bring you to the fantasy Promised Land in 2021!

Fantasy Football Strategy: How to win your Best Ball league

Fantasy football best ball leagues offer invaluable practice, a fun challenge and a new way to enjoy the hobby. But this style of play involves different strategies to build an optimal roster.

One of the best developments in the fantasy football world was the introduction of “Best Ball” fantasy football leagues where a roster is drafted, and then the software automatically fills the weekly starting  lineup with the highest-scoring players. No maintenance, no free agent worries – just draft your fantasy football team and watch how it plays out in the standings during the course of the season.

Best ball fantasy football leagues offer the same “practice” as a  mock draft, only with more serious team owners who have paid $5 to $20 (or more) to participate. These  drafts mirror what will happen in your regular leagues so it is a great way to get a feel for how players are being drafted. But this different flavor of fantasy football prompts different strategies in building a team and even more so in the later rounds.

Let’s break down the positions to see how the strategy might change from what makes sense in a redraft, single-season, fantasy football league.

How to draft your best ball fantasy football team

Quarterbacks – The position serves up high-scoring players in all leagues, though the point difference may not be that great from, say, the third to the tenth quarterback. That prompts drafters to either bite the bullet and take Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen in the first few rounds or waiting until mid-draft to begrudgingly select a quarterback who can still qualify as “good enough.”

But the reality is that owning a top-scoring quarterback prevents the need to select from two similar players every week. If you own Mahomes, he starts in Week 1 and that never changes. Owning two middle-tier quarterbacks like Matt Stafford and Kirk Cousins means you have to guess who to start each week, and sometimes you will be wrong. Not so in Best Ball. Owning a top quarterback means a constant stream of good performances. But – if you get two or even three quarterbacks from the middle of the draft, getting the best score from the three each week just might be even more than a Mahomes or Allen. Plus, your team doesn’t suffer when one quarterback is injured.

Running Backs – It doesn’t matter what style of fantasy football you play. Running backs are always much-coveted. Owning three “starter-quality” backs is a great advantage depending on what else you gave up to get that. The biggest difference that the position has in Best Ball is that it can make even more sense to steal the backups from other fantasy team owners. Last year, only four of the Top-20 running backs played all 16 games. Even if only for a week or three, backups can contribute to your team.

Another strategy that works regardless of league style is to own at least one third-down back. The likes of Nyheim Hines, J.D. McKissic, or Boston Scott won’t win your league, but they are injured less often and turn in moderate points every week. Ditto for the second back in a backfield committee like Gus Edwards, Malcolm Brown, AJ Dillon, and Kareem Hunt.

Wide Receivers – This is a position that can be treated much differently with good results. Rostering an elite wideout or two is a huge benefit no matter what league style is used, but mostly because you don’t have to worry about selecting the three best receivers from the six on your roster every week. Owning half a dozen moderately-talented wideouts can be a weekly headache in standard league play. In fantasy football Best Ball format, it can be a blessing.

Since the top scorers automatically start each week, there is no such thing as too many middle-tier wideouts. And once the draft reaches the final rounds and all the consistently productive receivers are long gone, there is still value to grab. Look for the No. 3 wideouts that may only have three to five notable games a year. They will count for you, and none of their duds go against you. Guys like Quez Watkins, Darius Slayton, Michael Gallup, and Gabriel Davis can be hard to get right each week, but in Best Ball they will help and yet never hurt.

If you never drafted a rookie wideout in regular league play, it wouldn’t hurt your team. In Best Ball, they can shine because their handful of great games benefit you and their flops are ignored. Rashod Bateman, Ronald Moore, Terrace Marshall, Elijah Moore, and Amon St. Brown offer much more in a Best Ball league format. Better yet, rookies typically improve as the season progresses.

Tight Ends – This is the one position that doesn’t play out much differently than it does in standard league play. The reality is that there are an elite three tight ends every year, and then about three more with potential upside. And then there is the vast, unwashed horde of other tight ends. With wide receivers, you can cobble together an ever-changing set of moderately productive players that can compete against other teams with one or two elite wideouts.

In Best Ball fantasy football, you cannot find any two or three average tight ends that will combine to match what Travis Kelce or Darren Waller produce in any week. It pays to own a Top-3 tight end, or at least two others still in the Top-10 for the position because the production is so notoriously low for almost all other tight ends.

Kickers – You’ll need two, and there is no rush. Even less so in this format that will pick the top score from either of your kickers. Don’t overspend on this position.

Defenses – Given the year-to-year variation in the rankings for defenses, there isn’t any need to get one early here. Almost all leagues use fantasy scoring rules that yield only a marginal difference between defenses. Grab two, make them in the Top-16 of the position, and you’ve done all you can.

2021 Fantasy Football Tips and Trends

Tips and Trends from 2021

It is never too early – or late – to prepare for your fantasy draft. This year still contends with COVID-19, but the NFL made it through 2020 without missing a game, so expect it to be a non-factor again. Every season has changes that impact fantasy football and a unique set of trends that can help make a roadmap to a success fantasy draft.

Tips for the season

  1. Back up your running backs. Last season, the Top-24 fantasy backs only included four that played in all 16 games, and three of those were No. 2 on their own team. A full dozen missed at least two games, and that’s from the highest scorers in the position.
  2. Running backs and wide receivers dominate the first eight rounds. The decision you must make in advance is when to take your first quarterback and tight end.
  3. Unless your league allows starting two quarterbacks, there is usually no real benefit in burning any of your first four or five picks on the position. It looks good at the time, but you pay the price by delaying other positions that experience a steeper decline in value than quarterbacks.
  4. Tight ends are the lowest scoring fantasy position and can wait until mid-draft. However, if your league awards reception points, the Top-3 tight ends can offer a significant benefit. Finding a difference-making tight end from later in the draft is almost impossible. Not so for all other positions.
  5. Kickers and defenses are notoriously difficult to predict and taking them in the final rounds of the draft is very common. However, owning one of the elites from either position can offer a small advantage and moving up each a full round than normal doesn’t hurt. Do you really expect to use your seventh wideout? You realize he’s the first cut when you visit the waiver wire after Week 1.
  6. Watch your bye weeks when you draft. This year there are six teams on their bye in Week 7 – Bills, Cowboys, Jaguars, Chargers, Vikings, and Steelers. The Colts, Dolphins, Patriots, and Eagles are off during Week 14 when some leagues and contests are starting their playoffs.

Reliable trends

While each fantasy league is unique, many trends are common in fantasy drafts. And that helps to formulate a rough plan of when to take different positions.

Quarterbacks – In leagues where you only start one, there is significant consistency in how they are drafted. Expect Patrick Mahomes to be a third-round pick. Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, Dak Prescott, and Lamar Jackson are taken, in that order, over the next two rounds. The rest of them end up going in the seventh to eleventh rounds with large variation from league to league. Rookie quarterbacks like Trey Lance, Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields have been rising on draft boards all summer.

Running Backs – The NFL may be a “passing league,” but fantasy drafts don’t care. Running backs can take up eight or even ten of the first twelve picks. About 20 are gone before the fourth round, where player risk starts to ramp up, and the likely reward has a steeper decline. The safest play is to own two running backs after your first three picks. Most will follow that plan.  There are still plenty of rushers with upside to exceed expectations through the eighth round, but you need to be good or lucky to land the right ones. Rookie running backs always spawn optimism, and Najee Harris, Javonte Williams, Travis Etienne, Trey Sermon, and Michael Carter offer the spicy tang of “you never really know.” And that drives up their draft stock, so don’t wait if you want one.

Drafters have downgraded last year’s rookies other than Jonathan Taylor. Considering there was no preseason and plenty of team injuries, players like Clyde Edwards-Helaire, D’Andre Swift, and J.K. Dobbins merit a mulligan and are better values. Cam Akers has sadly already proven why drafting the backups for your top backs is prudent.

Wide Receivers – Thanks to the running back frenzy in the early rounds, there is great value in the position that usually takes three full rounds to see the Top-12 be selected. The first dozen running backs rarely last to the middle of the second round. You should gather at least two over the first six rounds, and there is tremendous value early on if you are good enough to wait on running backs. Teams that draft near the end of the first round often scoops up two elite wideouts to start and then mine for running backs for the next few rounds.

The most generic – and safest – plan is to end up with two running backs and two wideouts by your fourth pick. In the fourth round, you can still access  Robert Woods, Chris Godwin, Cooper Kupp, Julio Jones and the like. While eight or more rookie receivers end up drafted, the expectation is that they won’t offer as much as in other years. Ja’Marr Chase usually leads the pack in the sixth round, then Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith show up around the ninth or tenth round as fantasy backups. All others are just deep roster fodder.

Tight Ends – Travis Kelce is a first-round pick after dominating the NFL for four seasons in a position that offers so few difference-makers.  There are only around three tight ends that offer an advantage each season and that means that Darren Waller goes in the second round and George Kittle lands in the late third or early fourth after his injurious season in 2020. That’s not to say the rest have no fantasy value, but the likelihood that they will compete with your other starters as contributors becomes much lower.

Expect that T.J. Hockenson, Mark Andrews and the rookie Kyle Pitts are gone by the sixth round after rosters have filled up on running backs and receivers and are looking for value in tight end. If you miss out on those, wait until the ninth round where you can grab Dallas Goedert, Noah Fant, Robert Tonyan, or Thomas Logan.

 

Fantasy football mock draft series: August takeaways

A mock draft review from a recent August gathering of professionals.

The fantasy football mock draft review for August is here, and we get a great comparison to July, with 11 of the 12 drafters being the same in each one.

We previously analyzed May and June with a different team of participants. For privacy of the upcoming publication that will include this draft, all team names and participants have been omitted.

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Before getting into my individual picks, here are a few positional observations from this traditional 12-team, PPR draft.

  • Like in the June and July drafts, Patrick Mahomes was a third-round pick. He went 31st last month and 33rd in this draft. Mahomes and Josh Allen were the only two quarterbacks to go in the first four rounds in consecutive months, although we witnessed a pair of QBs come off the board in the first three picks of Round 5 of August’s draft. Eleven passers went in the first 100 picks last month. This time around, 10 QBs were chosen.
  • Nine of the Round 1 choices were running backs in both July and August. The position represented 14 of the first 24 chosen players — also the same as July. Among the first 100 picks, 38 running backs came off the board, down two from last month.
  • Wide receiver claimed 43 of the first 100 selections, also two fewer from July. Once again, among the 24 choices in Rounds 2 and 3, half went to the position.
  • Eight tight ends were chosen in the first 100 picks (Irv Smith Jr. was No. 101), and only two of them came off the board in the first 36 selections — a jump of seven spots for George Kittle (37th) in this draft.

Below is a snapshot of the first 10 rounds broken down by number of positional picks from both the July and August drafts, including the change by round and overall.

June draft results Au draft results Change +/-
Rnd QB RB WR TE Rnd QB RB WR TE QB RB WR TE
1 0 9 2 1 1 0 9 2 1 0 0 0 0
2 0 5 6 1 2 0 5 6 1 0 0 0 0
3 1 5 6 0 3 1 4 7 0 0 -1 1 0
4 1 5 5 1 4 1 2 7 2 0 -3 2 1
5 2 2 8 0 5 2 6 4 0 0 4 -4 0
6 2 3 3 4 6 1 5 4 2 -1 2 1 -2
7 2 7 3 0 7 4 2 5 1 2 -5 2 1
8 2 3 6 1 8 1 4 5 2 -1 1 -1 1
9 3 4 4 1 9 1 4 5 2 -2 0 1 1
10 1 0 8 3 10 1 4 7 0 0 4 -1 -3
Total 14 43 51 12 Total 12 45 52 11 -2 2 1 -1

As you can see, the first two rounds were identical for positional distribution. The third round mostly was the same, but once we made our way into Round 4, running backs took a hit. It didn’t last long, though, with four more backs going in the fifth than the July version. Overall, the positional variation was negligible. Quarterbacks regressed slightly in favor of running backs — really nothing of consequence to glean on the whole. It suggests you can wait a little longer on QBs, if nothing else.

Round-by-round picks

# Pick Player Tm Pos Drafter # Pick Player Tm Pos Drafter
1 1.1 Christian McCaffrey CAR RB Team 1 97 9.1 Jaylen Waddle MIA WR Team 1
2 1.2 Dalvin Cook MIN RB Team 2 98 9.2 DeVante Parker MIA WR Team 2
3 1.3 Ezekiel Elliott DAL RB Team 3 99 9.3 Nyheim Hines IND RB Team 3
4 1.4 Derrick Henry TEN RB Team 4 100 9.4 Antonio Brown TB WR Team 4
5 1.5 Alvin Kamara NO RB Team 5 101 9.5 Irv Smith Jr. MIN TE Team 5
6 1.6 Saquon Barkley NYG RB Team 6 102 9.6 Gus Edwards BAL RB Team 6
7 1.7 Aaron Jones GB RB Team 7 103 9.7 Ronald Jones II TB RB Team 7
8 1.8 Travis Kelce KC TE Team 8 104 9.8 AJ Dillon GB RB Team 8
9 1.9 Jonathan Taylor IND RB Team 9 105 9.9 Dallas Goedert PHI TE Team 9
10 1.10 Austin Ekeler LAC RB Team 10 106 9.10 Curtis Samuel WAS WR Team 10
11 1.11 Davante Adams GB WR Team 11 107 9.11 Jarvis Landry CLE WR Team 11
12 1.12 Tyreek Hill KC WR Team 12 108 9.12 Matt Ryan ATL QB Team 12
13 2.1 Stefon Diggs BUF WR Team 12 109 10.1 Jamaal Williams DET RB Team 12
14 2.2 Joe Mixon CIN RB Team 11 110 10.2 Tony Pollard DAL RB Team 11
15 2.3 Nick Chubb CLE RB Team 10 111 10.3 Will Fuller MIA WR Team 10
16 2.4 Antonio Gibson WAS RB Team 9 112 10.4 Darnell Mooney CHI WR Team 9
17 2.5 Najee Harris PIT RB Team 8 113 10.5 Jalen Hurts PHI QB Team 8
18 2.6 D.K. Metcalf SEA WR Team 7 114 10.6 Marquise Brown BAL WR Team 7
19 2.7 DeAndre Hopkins ARI WR Team 6 115 10.7 Corey Davis NYJ WR Team 6
20 2.8 Calvin Ridley ATL WR Team 5 116 10.8 Phillip Lindsay HOU RB Team 5
21 2.9 Clyde Edwards-Helaire KC RB Team 4 117 10.9 Laviska Shenault Jr. JAX WR Team 4
22 2.10 Darren Waller LV TE Team 3 118 10.10 Marvin Jones JAX WR Team 3
23 2.11 A.J. Brown TEN WR Team 2 119 10.11 Sterling Shepard NYG WR Team 2
24 2.12 Justin Jefferson MIN WR Team 1 120 10.12 David Johnson HOU RB Team 1
25 3.1 J.K. Dobbins BAL RB Team 1 121 11.1 Henry Ruggs III LV WR Team 1
26 3.2 Chris Carson SEA RB Team 2 122 11.2 Tevin Coleman NYJ RB Team 2
27 3.3 Miles Sanders PHI RB Team 3 123 11.3 Mike Williams LAC WR Team 3
28 3.4 Keenan Allen LAC WR Team 4 124 11.4 Kenyan Drake LV RB Team 4
29 3.5 Chris Godwin TB WR Team 5 125 11.5 Ryan Tannehill TEN QB Team 5
30 3.6 Terry McLaurin WAS WR Team 6 126 11.6 Chuba Hubbard CAR RB Team 6
31 3.7 Mike Evans TB WR Team 7 127 11.7 Cole Beasley BUF WR Team 7
32 3.8 CeeDee Lamb DAL WR Team 8 128 11.8 Elijah Moore NYJ WR Team 8
33 3.9 Patrick Mahomes KC QB Team 9 129 11.9 Tyler Higbee LAR TE Team 9
34 3.10 Allen Robinson CHI WR Team 10 130 11.10 J.D. McKissic WAS RB Team 10
35 3.11 Robert Woods LAR WR Team 11 131 11.11 Mecole Hardman KC WR Team 11
36 3.12 David Montgomery CHI RB Team 12 132 11.12 Joe Burrow CIN QB Team 12
37 4.1 George Kittle SF TE Team 12 133 12.1 Mike Gesicki MIA TE Team 12
38 4.2 Amari Cooper DAL WR Team 11 134 12.2 Trey Lance SF QB Team 11
39 4.3 Cooper Kupp LAR WR Team 10 135 12.3 Hunter Henry NE TE Team 10
40 4.4 Brandon Aiyuk SF WR Team 9 136 12.4 Kirk Cousins MIN QB Team 9
41 4.5 Tyler Lockett SEA WR Team 8 137 12.5 Justin Fields CHI QB Team 8
42 4.6 Josh Jacobs LV RB Team 7 138 12.6 Russell Gage ATL WR Team 7
43 4.7 Julio Jones TEN WR Team 6 139 12.7 Nelson Agholor NE WR Team 6
44 4.8 Josh Allen BUF QB Team 5 140 12.8 Los Angeles Rams LAR Def/ST Team 5
45 4.9 T.J. Hockenson DET TE Team 4 141 12.9 Trevor Lawrence JAX QB Team 4
46 4.10 Courtland Sutton DEN WR Team 3 142 12.10 T Y Hilton IND WR Team 3
47 4.11 D’Andre Swift DET RB Team 2 143 12.11 Latavius Murray NO RB Team 2
48 4.12 D.J. Moore CAR WR Team 1 144 12.12 Tua Tagovailoa MIA QB Team 1
49 5.1 Kyler Murray ARI QB Team 1 145 13.1 Evan Engram NYG TE Team 1
50 5.2 Kenny Golladay NYG WR Team 2 146 13.2 Jonnu Smith NE TE Team 2
51 5.3 Dak Prescott DAL QB Team 3 147 13.3 Derek Carr LV QB Team 3
52 5.4 Diontae Johnson PIT WR Team 4 148 13.4 Alexander Mattison MIN RB Team 4
53 5.5 Darrell Henderson LAR RB Team 5 149 13.5 Tre’Quan Smith NO WR Team 5
54 5.6 Chase Edmonds ARI RB Team 6 150 13.6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers TB Def/ST Team 6
55 5.7 Myles Gaskin MIA RB Team 7 151 13.7 Jared Cook LAC TE Team 7
56 5.8 Adam Thielen MIN WR Team 8 152 13.8 James White NE RB Team 8
57 5.9 Tee Higgins CIN WR Team 9 153 13.9 Christian Kirk ARI WR Team 9
58 5.10 Mike Davis ATL RB Team 10 154 13.10 Washington FB Team WAS Def/ST Team 10
59 5.11 Kareem Hunt CLE RB Team 11 155 13.11 Rashaad Penny SEA RB Team 11
60 5.12 Travis Etienne JAX RB Team 12 156 13.12 Justin Tucker BAL K Team 12
61 6.1 Javonte Williams DEN RB Team 12 157 14.1 Pittsburgh Steelers PIT Def/ST Team 12
62 6.2 Kyle Pitts ATL TE Team 11 158 14.2 Baltimore Ravens BAL Def/ST Team 11
63 6.3 Mark Andrews BAL TE Team 10 159 14.3 Ben Roethlisberger PIT QB Team 10
64 6.4 JuJu Smith-Schuster PIT WR Team 9 160 14.4 Boston Scott PHI RB Team 9
65 6.5 Chase Claypool PIT WR Team 8 161 14.5 Damien Williams CHI RB Team 8
66 6.6 Michael Thomas NO WR Team 7 162 14.6 Anthony Firkser TEN TE Team 7
67 6.7 James Robinson JAX RB Team 6 163 14.7 Harrison Butker KC K Team 6
68 6.8 Odell Beckham Jr. CLE WR Team 5 164 14.8 Jalen Reagor PHI WR Team 5
69 6.9 Trey Sermon SF RB Team 4 165 14.9 Javian Hawkins ATL RB Team 4
70 6.10 Damien Harris NE RB Team 3 166 14.10 Gerald Everett SEA TE Team 3
71 6.11 Russell Wilson SEA QB Team 2 167 14.11 Devontae Booker NYG RB Team 2
72 6.12 Michael Carter NYJ RB Team 1 168 14.12 San Francisco 49ers SF Def/ST Team 1
73 7.1 Deebo Samuel SF WR Team 1 169 15.1 Amon-Ra St. Brown DET WR Team 1
74 7.2 Noah Fant DEN TE Team 2 170 15.2 Tyler Bass BUF K Team 2
75 7.3 Brandin Cooks HOU WR Team 3 171 15.3 New England Patriots NE Def/ST Team 3
76 7.4 Ja’Marr Chase CIN WR Team 4 172 15.4 Buffalo Bills BUF Def/ST Team 4
77 7.5 Jerry Jeudy DEN WR Team 5 173 15.5 Adam Trautman NO TE Team 5
78 7.6 Aaron Rodgers GB QB Team 6 174 15.6 Emmanuel Sanders BUF WR Team 6
79 7.7 Lamar Jackson BAL QB Team 7 175 15.7 Younghoe Koo ATL K Team 7
80 7.8 Raheem Mostert SF RB Team 8 176 15.8 Indianapolis Colts IND Def/ST Team 8
81 7.9 Melvin Gordon DEN RB Team 9 177 15.9 Jason Sanders MIA K Team 9
82 7.10 Justin Herbert LAC QB Team 10 178 15.10 Ryan Succop TB K Team 10
83 7.11 Tom Brady TB QB Team 11 179 15.11 Sammy Watkins BAL WR Team 11
84 7.12 D.J. Chark JAX WR Team 12 180 15.12 Rhamondre Stevenson NE RB Team 12
85 8.1 DeVonta Smith PHI WR Team 12 181 16.1 Rondale Moore ARI WR Team 12
86 8.2 Zack Moss BUF RB Team 11 182 16.2 Greg Zuerlein DAL K Team 11
87 8.3 Robby Anderson CAR WR Team 10 183 16.3 Austin Hooper CLE TE Team 10
88 8.4 Michael Pittman Jr. IND WR Team 9 184 16.4 Kansas City Chiefs KC Def/ST Team 9
89 8.5 Tyler Boyd CIN WR Team 8 185 16.5 Matt Prater ARI K Team 8
90 8.6 Leonard Fournette TB RB Team 7 186 16.6 Miami Dolphins MIA Def/ST Team 7
91 8.7 Robert Tonyan GB TE Team 6 187 16.7 Deshaun Watson HOU QB Team 6
92 8.8 Devin Singletary BUF RB Team 5 188 16.8 Rodrigo Blankenship IND K Team 5
93 8.9 Matthew Stafford LAR QB Team 4 189 16.9 Daniel Carlson LV K Team 4
94 8.10 James Conner ARI RB Team 3 190 16.10 Joey Slye CAR K Team 3
95 8.11 Michael Gallup DAL WR Team 2 191 16.11 Denver Broncos DEN Def/ST Team 2
96 8.12 Logan Thomas WAS TE Team 1 192 16.12 Mason Crosby GB K Team 1

Results by position

Pos rank Pick Player Tm Pos Drafter Pos rank Pick Player Tm Pos Drafter
1 3.9 Patrick Mahomes KC QB Team 9 1 1.11 Davante Adams GB WR Team 11
2 4.8 Josh Allen BUF QB Team 5 2 1.12 Tyreek Hill KC WR Team 12
3 5.1 Kyler Murray ARI QB Team 1 3 2.1 Stefon Diggs BUF WR Team 12
4 5.3 Dak Prescott DAL QB Team 3 4 2.6 D.K. Metcalf SEA WR Team 7
5 6.11 Russell Wilson SEA QB Team 2 5 2.7 DeAndre Hopkins ARI WR Team 6
6 7.6 Aaron Rodgers GB QB Team 6 6 2.8 Calvin Ridley ATL WR Team 5
7 7.7 Lamar Jackson BAL QB Team 7 7 2.11 A.J. Brown TEN WR Team 2
8 7.10 Justin Herbert LAC QB Team 10 8 2.12 Justin Jefferson MIN WR Team 1
9 7.11 Tom Brady TB QB Team 11 9 3.4 Keenan Allen LAC WR Team 4
10 8.9 Matthew Stafford LAR QB Team 4 10 3.5 Chris Godwin TB WR Team 5
11 9.12 Matt Ryan ATL QB Team 12 11 3.6 Terry McLaurin WAS WR Team 6
12 10.5 Jalen Hurts PHI QB Team 8 12 3.7 Mike Evans TB WR Team 7
13 11.5 Ryan Tannehill TEN QB Team 5 13 3.8 CeeDee Lamb DAL WR Team 8
14 11.12 Joe Burrow CIN QB Team 12 14 3.10 Allen Robinson CHI WR Team 10
15 12.2 Trey Lance SF QB Team 11 15 3.11 Robert Woods LAR WR Team 11
16 12.4 Kirk Cousins MIN QB Team 9 16 4.2 Amari Cooper DAL WR Team 11
17 12.5 Justin Fields CHI QB Team 8 17 4.3 Cooper Kupp LAR WR Team 10
18 12.9 Trevor Lawrence JAX QB Team 4 18 4.4 Brandon Aiyuk SF WR Team 9
19 12.12 Tua Tagovailoa MIA QB Team 1 19 4.5 Tyler Lockett SEA WR Team 8
20 13.3 Derek Carr LV QB Team 3 20 4.7 Julio Jones TEN WR Team 6
21 14.3 Ben Roethlisberger PIT QB Team 10 21 4.10 Courtland Sutton DEN WR Team 3
22 16.7 Deshaun Watson HOU QB Team 6 22 4.12 D.J. Moore CAR WR Team 1
1 1.1 Christian McCaffrey CAR RB Team 1 23 5.2 Kenny Golladay NYG WR Team 2
2 1.2 Dalvin Cook MIN RB Team 2 24 5.4 Diontae Johnson PIT WR Team 4
3 1.3 Ezekiel Elliott DAL RB Team 3 25 5.8 Adam Thielen MIN WR Team 8
4 1.4 Derrick Henry TEN RB Team 4 26 5.9 Tee Higgins CIN WR Team 9
5 1.5 Alvin Kamara NO RB Team 5 27 6.4 JuJu Smith-Schuster PIT WR Team 9
6 1.6 Saquon Barkley NYG RB Team 6 28 6.5 Chase Claypool PIT WR Team 8
7 1.7 Aaron Jones GB RB Team 7 29 6.6 Michael Thomas NO WR Team 7
8 1.9 Jonathan Taylor IND RB Team 9 30 6.8 Odell Beckham Jr. CLE WR Team 5
9 1.10 Austin Ekeler LAC RB Team 10 31 7.1 Deebo Samuel SF WR Team 1
10 2.2 Joe Mixon CIN RB Team 11 32 7.3 Brandin Cooks HOU WR Team 3
11 2.3 Nick Chubb CLE RB Team 10 33 7.4 Ja’Marr Chase CIN WR Team 4
12 2.4 Antonio Gibson WAS RB Team 9 34 7.5 Jerry Jeudy DEN WR Team 5
13 2.5 Najee Harris PIT RB Team 8 35 7.12 D.J. Chark JAX WR Team 12
14 2.9 Clyde Edwards-Helaire KC RB Team 4 36 8.1 DeVonta Smith PHI WR Team 12
15 3.1 J.K. Dobbins BAL RB Team 1 37 8.3 Robby Anderson CAR WR Team 10
16 3.2 Chris Carson SEA RB Team 2 38 8.4 Michael Pittman Jr. IND WR Team 9
17 3.3 Miles Sanders PHI RB Team 3 39 8.5 Tyler Boyd CIN WR Team 8
18 3.12 David Montgomery CHI RB Team 12 40 8.11 Michael Gallup DAL WR Team 2
19 4.6 Josh Jacobs LV RB Team 7 41 9.1 Jaylen Waddle MIA WR Team 1
20 4.11 D’Andre Swift DET RB Team 2 42 9.2 DeVante Parker MIA WR Team 2
21 5.5 Darrell Henderson LAR RB Team 5 43 9.4 Antonio Brown TB WR Team 4
22 5.6 Chase Edmonds ARI RB Team 6 44 9.10 Curtis Samuel WAS WR Team 10
23 5.7 Myles Gaskin MIA RB Team 7 45 9.11 Jarvis Landry CLE WR Team 11
24 5.10 Mike Davis ATL RB Team 10 46 10.3 Will Fuller MIA WR Team 10
25 5.11 Kareem Hunt CLE RB Team 11 47 10.4 Darnell Mooney CHI WR Team 9
26 5.12 Travis Etienne JAX RB Team 12 48 10.6 Marquise Brown BAL WR Team 7
27 6.1 Javonte Williams DEN RB Team 12 49 10.7 Corey Davis NYJ WR Team 6
28 6.7 James Robinson JAX RB Team 6 50 10.9 Laviska Shenault Jr. JAX WR Team 4
29 6.9 Trey Sermon SF RB Team 4 51 10.10 Marvin Jones JAX WR Team 3
30 6.10 Damien Harris NE RB Team 3 52 10.11 Sterling Shepard NYG WR Team 2
31 6.12 Michael Carter NYJ RB Team 1 53 11.1 Henry Ruggs III LV WR Team 1
32 7.8 Raheem Mostert SF RB Team 8 54 11.3 Mike Williams LAC WR Team 3
33 7.9 Melvin Gordon DEN RB Team 9 55 11.7 Cole Beasley BUF WR Team 7
34 8.2 Zack Moss BUF RB Team 11 56 11.8 Elijah Moore NYJ WR Team 8
35 8.6 Leonard Fournette TB RB Team 7 57 11.11 Mecole Hardman KC WR Team 11
36 8.8 Devin Singletary BUF RB Team 5 58 12.6 Russell Gage ATL WR Team 7
37 8.10 James Conner ARI RB Team 3 59 12.7 Nelson Agholor NE WR Team 6
38 9.3 Nyheim Hines IND RB Team 3 60 12.10 T Y Hilton IND WR Team 3
39 9.6 Gus Edwards BAL RB Team 6 61 13.5 Tre’Quan Smith NO WR Team 5
40 9.7 Ronald Jones II TB RB Team 7 62 13.9 Christian Kirk ARI WR Team 9
41 9.8 AJ Dillon GB RB Team 8 63 14.8 Jalen Reagor PHI WR Team 5
42 10.1 Jamaal Williams DET RB Team 12 64 15.1 Amon-Ra St. Brown DET WR Team 1
43 10.2 Tony Pollard DAL RB Team 11 65 15.6 Emmanuel Sanders BUF WR Team 6
44 10.8 Phillip Lindsay HOU RB Team 5 66 15.11 Sammy Watkins BAL WR Team 11
45 10.12 David Johnson HOU RB Team 1 67 16.1 Rondale Moore ARI WR Team 12
46 11.2 Tevin Coleman NYJ RB Team 2 1 13.12 Justin Tucker BAL K Team 12
47 11.4 Kenyan Drake LV RB Team 4 2 14.7 Harrison Butker KC K Team 6
48 11.6 Chuba Hubbard CAR RB Team 6 3 15.2 Tyler Bass BUF K Team 2
49 11.10 J.D. McKissic WAS RB Team 10 4 15.7 Younghoe Koo ATL K Team 7
50 12.11 Latavius Murray NO RB Team 2 5 15.9 Jason Sanders MIA K Team 9
51 13.4 Alexander Mattison MIN RB Team 4 6 15.10 Ryan Succop TB K Team 10
52 13.8 James White NE RB Team 8 7 16.2 Greg Zuerlein DAL K Team 11
53 13.11 Rashaad Penny SEA RB Team 11 8 16.5 Matt Prater ARI K Team 8
54 14.4 Boston Scott PHI RB Team 9 9 16.8 Rodrigo Blankenship IND K Team 5
55 14.5 Damien Williams CHI RB Team 8 10 16.9 Daniel Carlson LV K Team 4
56 14.9 Javian Hawkins ATL RB Team 4 11 16.10 Joey Slye CAR K Team 3
57 14.11 Devontae Booker NYG RB Team 2 12 16.12 Mason Crosby GB K Team 1
58 15.12 Rhamondre Stevenson NE RB Team 12 1 12.8 Los Angeles Rams LAR Def/ST Team 5
1 1.8 Travis Kelce KC TE Team 8 2 13.6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers TB Def/ST Team 6
2 2.10 Darren Waller LV TE Team 3 3 13.10 Washington FB Team WAS Def/ST Team 10
3 4.1 George Kittle SF TE Team 12 4 14.1 Pittsburgh Steelers PIT Def/ST Team 12
4 4.9 T.J. Hockenson DET TE Team 4 5 14.2 Baltimore Ravens BAL Def/ST Team 11
5 6.2 Kyle Pitts ATL TE Team 11 6 14.12 San Francisco 49ers SF Def/ST Team 1
6 6.3 Mark Andrews BAL TE Team 10 7 15.3 New England Patriots NE Def/ST Team 3
7 7.2 Noah Fant DEN TE Team 2 8 15.4 Buffalo Bills BUF Def/ST Team 4
8 8.7 Robert Tonyan GB TE Team 6 9 15.8 Indianapolis Colts IND Def/ST Team 8
9 8.12 Logan Thomas WAS TE Team 1 10 16.4 Kansas City Chiefs KC Def/ST Team 9
10 9.5 Irv Smith Jr. MIN TE Team 5 11 16.6 Miami Dolphins MIA Def/ST Team 7
11 9.9 Dallas Goedert PHI TE Team 9 12 16.11 Denver Broncos DEN Def/ST Team 2
12 11.9 Tyler Higbee LAR TE Team 9
13 12.1 Mike Gesicki MIA TE Team 12
14 12.3 Hunter Henry NE TE Team 10
15 13.1 Evan Engram NYG TE Team 1
16 13.2 Jonnu Smith NE TE Team 2
17 13.7 Jared Cook LAC TE Team 7
18 14.6 Anthony Firkser TEN TE Team 7
19 14.10 Gerald Everett SEA TE Team 3
20 15.5 Adam Trautman NO TE Team 5
21 16.3 Austin Hooper CLE TE Team 10

My team

1:04) RB Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans: At No. 4, I was fully expecting to take Ezekiel Elliott, so King Henry was a pleasant surprise. He will see a significant statistical decline from last year’s ridiculous numbers, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t fully worthy of the No. 4 selection. It is, though, a reason why I went deeper at RB than usual in a draft of this size.

2:09) RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs: CEH was a darling last year and didn’t quite get it clicking as most had hoped to see. In 2021, with another year of learning and a more practical offseason program to aid his maturation, Edwards-Helaire has low-end RB1 upside. Nice value here, if I do say so myself.

3:04) WR Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers: Basically a lock to near 100 receptions, Allen is a PPR powerhouse and should once again thrive. Quarterback Justin Herbert has benefited from more time to polish his skills and knowledge of the game, making his top receiver a safe buy as my lead guy.

4:09) TE T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions: While Hockenson may have been a touch on the early side here, I wasn’t enamored with any of the options at wide receiver and was already off to a strong start at RB. I pivoted in a way not normal to my drafting preferences and chose the tight end — effectively Detroit’s No. 1 receiver — and decided to punt on the position the rest of the way.

5:04) WR Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers: Landing Hock a round ago actually worked out pretty well. Johnson is an ascending talent in an offense that should keep him plenty busy underneath. He rarely will see double-teams, and I strongly believe we didn’t see his ceiling last year.

6:09) RB Trey Sermon, San Francisco 49ers: There is no running back I rather gamble on in 2021 drafts than the rookie. I’m not convinced Raheem Mostert will be even the “1a” of the backfield, and his durability concerns could make Sermon as close to a workhorse as possible in a Kyle Shanahan offense.

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7:04) WR Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals: I’ve been lukewarm on Chase’s draft placement much of the offseason, so this choice was a slight gamble on his chemistry with Joe Burrow. I have stability with Allen as my WR1 and a player whose weekly returns may wildly fluctuate with Johnson as my second. Chase could bring that “wow” factor to my receiving corps, although it means wideout depth must remain a focus over the next few rounds.

8:09) QB Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams: The weaponry and system are in place for Stafford to be dominant. Even though Round 8 may be a hair on the early side for my usual QB-drafting tastes, I wasn’t going to miss out on him after nine other QBs had been chosen.

9:04) WR Antonio Brown, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Still not terribly satisfied with my receivers and seeing a reasonable number of remaining RB4 targets on the board, AB is an intriguing risk-reward option. There’s clearly a chemistry between he and Tom Brady, and the veteran receiver was on pace for 90 grabs a year ago after having to come in cold from a lengthy layoff. I tend to prefer him in best-ball formats, but Brown would be a strong starter if something were to happen to Mike Evans or Chris Godwin.

10:09) WR Laviska Shenault Jr., Jacksonville Jaguars: Shenault was debated when I took Brown in the last round, so even though I still felt the need to add running back depth, the calculated decision to wait on the position brought the second-year Jaguar onto my roster. I’m not crazy about DJ Chark Jr.’s durability at this point, and we saw enough from the versatile Shenault as a rookie to expect a notable leap in Year 2.

11:04) RB Kenyan Drake, Las Vegas Raiders: I was expecting one of Drake, Chuba Hubbard, J.D. McKissic and Latavius Murray to be available for me. All of them were waiting for me. While McKissic was ranked the highest on my board, Drake’s situation appealed more to me based on my roster composition. If (when?) Josh Jacobs gets hurt, I have a proven back in a run-heavy system getting thrust into a starting role. I love McKissic’s receiving chops, though he’s not going to be much more than that if Antonio Gibson were to miss time.

12:09) QB Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars: Tua Tagovailoa and Ben Roethlisberger were the other targets here. It really was a coin flip between Big Ben and Lawrence, though. I feel pretty good about betting Lawrence will safely finish inside the top 15, which is probably Roethlisberger’s ceiling.

13:04) RB Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings: Even though I didn’t draft Dalvin Cook, seeing Mattison here this late made me excited about my RB5 — not something that usually happens in a competitive draft. All it takes is one significant injury to Minnesota’s workhorse and I have a weekly RB2 or better ready for deployment.

14:09) RB Javian Hawkins, Atlanta Falcons: Just as the July mock draft saw me take Hawkins, yet again I couldn’t pass on his upside in PPR. This time, I snagged him two rounds later and as my RB6 instead of fifth. Hawkins has enjoyed a productive offseason and will be in the mix.

Hunting for upside tight ends

Four tight ends with upside for 2021

Tight ends offer marginal minimal moderate nothing  some fantasy points for your team, but the problem is that every year there are usually only three or four elite options for your roster. And they are largely the same ones every year. Bottom line, you either draft Travis Kelce (first round), Darren Waller and George Kittle (second or third rounds), or you accept your tight ends will not be difference-makers. Or – you have to get lucky.

Let’s explore “lucky.”

By that, I mean those players that exceed expectations. The ones that could step up into that difference-making realm of the Top-3. One of the challenges to determining which tight ends are most likely to step up is that they need an offensive scheme that will focus on them. Most do not. Tight ends are blockers first and receivers second on most teams. That is not to say that in-season injuries and dynamics won’t prop up a tight end for that year, but those players enjoy their magic year and then regress back into the pack. Think Evan Engram, who was the No. 5 fantasy tight end as a rookie in 2017 and has never been better than the No. 13 in his other three seasons.

The way that 2021 shakes out, every draft will have Kelce, Waller, and Kittle taken first. Somewhere around the sixth or so round, T.J. Hockenson and Kyle Pitts are taken.  Hockenson is first, but occasionally someone buys into the hype of Pitts as an uber-weapon and takes him. But it almost always happens just like that for the first five tight ends in your fantasy draft. But maybe you didn’t want to spend that early pick on a tight end because you know that sets all other starters back a round and that is tough to make up ground.

Where do you turn?

Look for the tight ends with upside. The run on the position typically happens in the eighth or ninth round, after the entire league has already feasted on running backs, wide receivers, and most starting quarterbacks.  Here are four tight ends to consider with  the talent, experience and situation to merit fantasy consideration after the big guns are gone.

Dallas Goedert (PHI) – The third tight end drafted in 2018 showed progress when he ended his second season with 58 catches for 607 yards and five scores for the Eagles. And that was in a season when Zack Ertz turned in 88 catches for 916 yards and six scores in the tight-end friendly scheme. But both Ertz and Goedert struggled with injuries in 2020.

The 30-year-old Ertz appeared destined to change teams in the offseason (still not an impossibility), and his departure would clearly boost the talented Goedert into a very favorable situation. Regardless, Ertz looks like he has lost a step, and turns 31 years old this year. Goedert has the talent to be a difference-maker, and a young quarterback in Jalen Hurts who needs a tall friend on a short route over the middle.  There’s a new offense under head coach Nick Sirianni but he comes from the Colts, where tight ends have always mattered.

Noah Fant (DEN) – The second tight end selected in 2019 (1.20) hasn’t been a factor in the red zone with just three touchdowns in each of his two seasons. Both he and T.J. Hockenson were drafted out of Iowa as the first two tight ends that year. Team injuries and poor quarterback play impacted 2020 but he still ended with 93 targets for 62 receptions and 673 yards. Those came during the first year with OC Pat Shurmur.

Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater are battling to see who starts and there are two talented wideouts in Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton if they can stay healthy. But Fant was already No. 6 in yardage and No. 7 in receptions last year among tight ends. He still has unrealized potential on a team with only two other notable receivers.

Mike Gesicki (MIA) – The second tight end drafted in 2018 (2.10) by the Dolphins posted career highs last season with 53 catches for 703 yards and six touchdowns. Encouraging was his final five games while playing with Tua Tagovailoa when he averaged five catches for 58 yards and totaled four touchdowns over those games. The Dolphins upgraded their wideouts with the talented and oft-injured Will Fuller, and Jaylen Waddle who will become the No. 1 wideout there sooner than later.

But Gesicki established chemistry with Tagovailoa and was a receiving tight end at Penn State with around 50 catches in each of his last two years there. The Dolphins rushing offense already appears below average and those wideouts will draw plenty of attention from the defense. Gesicki was already the No. 12 and No. 7 fantasy tight end the last years and has the potential for more.

Cole Kmet (CHI) – This is your backup tight end, provided you believe such a thing can exist on a fantasy team. Kmet was the first tight end drafted in 2020 when the Bears spent their 2.11 pick. His rookie season was fairly nondescript with 28 receptions for 243 yards and only two touchdowns. The tall Notre Dame star is poised to take that typical step up in his second year. There’s not enough proven production to merit him being a fantasy starter yet, but he had more talent than any other tight end drafted last year.

The Bears enter their second season with OC Bill Lazor though HC Matt Nagy also involves himself in the offense. The Bears already ranked in the Top-12 in targets and receptions for the position last year. Jimmy Graham remains but Kmet is expected to become the primary. Also, in his favor – the Bears are expected to turn the reins over to the rookie quarterback Justin Fields at some point. And a 6-6 tight end that can still run a 4.7 40-time can be a much-needed outlet.

Fantasy football draft prep: Running back handcuffs to target

Protect your fantasy investments with these capable handcuff targets.

For some reason, handcuffing running backs in fantasy football has become a controversial draft strategy throughout the years. On one hand (wrist?), it isn’t sexy, so owners may shy away from a boring selection. Diversification on a roster is another reason why people may avoid it.

Yet, there is nothing but upside in securing the top backup in the correct situation.

Fantasy owners often are drawn to grabbing both backs in precarious backfields, which can get one into trouble. Some offensive situations just don’t warrant a selection, rendering both choices wasted picks.

A noteworthy factor to consider is the profile of the reserve backs in relation to the offensive system. Some teams remain dedicated to a compartmentalized approach. The key is to look for backfields in which the two primary choices are not polar opposites, and/or there isn’t a tertiary guy in the mold of the RB1.

An example of a backfield combo that would work against a gamer would be drafting both Indianapolis Colts running backs Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines. If Taylor were to go down for any period of time, Hines wouldn’t be called upon to handle the full workload. Marlon Mack would assume most of Taylor’s workload and share touches with Hines, who would remain as the primary third-down guy.

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You want to find players whose value drastically increased by way of a substantially larger workload. Rather than being one of <insert your league size here> number of owners fighting on the waiver wire or via blind bidding for the replacement player, adding him late in drafts is a win-win. It does, however, require patience during the season. Owners become tempted to cut said handcuff to create room for another player. This can backfire and needs to be addressed with a case-by-case mentality.

Handcuffing is especially crucial for high-round picks. More often than not, the reason a running back is a selection inside of the first three rounds is due to his extreme volume. Those touches have to go somewhere should an injury strike down said player. Avoid a second kicker and/or defense to provide your roster valuable insurance.

Most important handcuffs in 2021

Something not mentioned above that is worth keeping in mind when targeting a handcuff scenario is to see if there is massive spacing in the ADP figures between the lead back and his replacement candidate. Investing in, say, Cleveland’s backfield will require gamers to spend two picks on the same team within the first five rounds … less than ideal. More on that situation later, though …

RB Chuba Hubbard, Carolina Panthers: The rookie has the skills to be a lead back in the event something happens to Christian McCaffrey, so keep a late-round selection tabbed for Hubbard. He can play all three downs and was prolific in 2019’s FBS season at Oklahoma State (2,292 total yards, 21 TDs).

RB Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings: There is absolutely zero freakin’ reason on this green Earth why gamers should not spend a midround investment on insuring a top-three pick, such as Dalvin Cook. In this specific case, Mattison has shown he can ball, and Cook has given us a glimpse into the world of durability concerns. Mattison would be see an RB1 workload without Cook.

RB Darrynton Evans, Tennessee Titans: Evans suffered a non-contact knee injury in the first preseason game, which usually spells disaster. Head coach Mike Vrabel listed the second-year back as “day-to-day,” however. In upcoming drafts, make sure Evans is rostered after you choose Derrick Henry. Historically speaking, the 2020 rushing king has only one direction to go in the upcoming campaign after topping 2,000 yards, and he has tallied a bazillion touches in the last few seasons.

RB Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys: Ezekiel Elliott has been about as durable as they make ’em in his career, but he also has endured off-the-field missteps that could lead to another way for Pollard to see the field more than intended. The third-year Memphis product can do it all and would be arguably a top-five back if Elliott didn’t exist in Dallas.

RB Kenyan Drake, Las Vegas Raiders: A run-heavy offense and a history of quality production share vows to send Drake from being a fringe lineup consideration most weeks into borderline RB1 territory. Josh Jacobs has been no stranger to injury in his short career, and after lacking a heavy workload in college, it is indeed fair to question his durability as a pro. Drake goes a full six rounds after Jacobs, which helps spread out any concern of investing in multiple Raiders.

RB A.J. Dillon, Green Bay Packers: Aaron Jones typically goes somewhere around the tail end of Round 1, and any such investment effectively requires owners to lock in a spot for the backup. Dillon will see ample work in his own right to help spell Jones, but if the second-year back is thrust into being the workhorse one day, he could gallop gamers into the fantasy playoffs. Be prepared to spend a little, though, since his ADP is Round 8.

RB Darrel Williams, Kansas City Chiefs: In 2020, then-rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire didn’t live up to fantasy expectations, but there is plenty of reason to like him in 2021. If he’s on your roster, Williams should be, too, and the investment is minimal (14th round). Sure, the offense will continue to run through Patrick Mahomes, so understand Williams will be a piece of the puzzle and not the ultimate solution for all of your fantasy needs.

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RB Gus Edwards, Baltimore Ravens: Maybe Edwards belongs in the section below for some leagues. The volume increase he will see, similarly to Williams in KC, makes him a weekly lineup option as no less than a flex play. J.K. Dobbins looked every bit the part of a stud in the making in 2020, and Lamar Jackson always is a threat to steal scores, but opportunity matters.

RB Damien Williams, Chicago Bears: The former Chief knows the system, which is an Andy Reid derivative. Head coach Matt Nagy comes directly from the Reid tree, and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor spent time under him as well as other former Reid subordinates. Tarik Cohen (knee) isn’t 100 percent and will not be more than a changeup/third-downer, so Williams will get a crack at RB1 reps if David Montgomery is knocked out of action. The well-rested Williams goes in Round 14, on average, making the investment practically nonexistent.

Grey area of handcuffing RBs

Detroit Lions: While D’Andre Swift returns from missing time with a groin injury, Jamaal Williams has been getting more love in fantasy drafts and extra practice reps with the ones. He has flashed at times in his career and is a steady three-down contributor. Head coach Dan Campbell and OC Anthony Lynn will remain committed to the ground game, defensive woes be damned, and there’s even a hot-hand scenario at play.

San Francisco 49ers: Trey Sermon and Raheem Mostert may cannibalize each other’s fantasy chances on a weekly basis. The potential for profit here can be found in Mostert having a limited track record and battling injuries in the only season he was granted a true shot at being a No. 1 back. Sermon perfectly fits the offense and could outright overtake the lead at some point. Kyle Shanahan loves to share RB touches, though. In casual circles, Sermon will be the better value by quite a large margin. More advanced leagues already have him going ahead of Mostert.

Los Angeles Rams: The No. 1 back in this offense will threaten RB1 fantasy territory, if given the chance over the course of the year. That said, Darrell Henderson‘s inherited stay as the top back will come down to whether he can remain on the field after missing time in the past two years with separate ankle injuries. There technically isn’t a true handcuff here, so the smartest thing Henderson owners can do is draft the largely unknown Xavier Jones and hope for the best.

Cleveland Browns: As mentioned above, investing in both Cleveland backs requires two selections within the first five rounds. If Nick Chubb stays healthy all year, he’s a top-10 running back, no doubt. But Kareem Hunt easily can be, too, if he sees enough touches via a Chubb injury. There is almost no room for error with your other early selections should both backs remain healthy, and you’ll likely be forced into playing the pair most weeks.

Denver Broncos: In the 2021 draft, Denver chose second-round back Javonte Williams as the future of this backfield. Following the offseason program and first preseason game, it is rather evident the future is now. Veteran Melvin Gordon is little more than “just a guy,” even when he doesn’t have direct competition for touches. Williams has leapfrogged Gordon in ADP to be an early sixth-round choice, and the latter typically goes more than a full round later, making it feasible to acquire both on draft day.

New York Giants: It is understandable to want to secure a handcuff for Saquon Barkley (knee), given the price of admission, but there really isn’t a clear choice. No one guy will outright take the job, barring a crazy plot twist, and we’re also talking about a shaky offense to begin with here. Devontae Booker is the direct backup at the moment. He’s more of a spell and third-down guy than a workhorse, and Corey Clement is mostly cut from the same cloth. If you must, link Booker to the recovering Penn State star.