Fantasy Football 2021: Early Mock Draft for Next Season

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IFebruary 12, 2021

Fantasy Football 2021: Early Mock Draft for Next Season

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    Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

    If you won a fantasy football championship in the 2020 season, you might still be reveling in that glory. For everybody else, the focus has shifted to 2021—even if fantasy drafts are several months away.

    If you're looking for a better lineup next season, it's never too early to start thinking about what you want to do when your league's draft arrives this summer. Plus, the NFL season is over, so it's not like there's any more action to occupy the football part of your mind.

    Here's an early look at how the first round of fantasy football drafts could go for the 2021 season.

1st-Round Mock Draft

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    1. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers

    2. Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings

    3. Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints

    4. Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans

    5. Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers

    6. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

    7. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts

    8. Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers (currently a free agent)

    9. Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

    10. Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns

    11. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Arizona Cardinals

    12. Stefon Diggs, WR, Buffalo Bills

Which Running Back Should Be Taken 1st Overall?

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    For fantasy managers who end up with the No. 1 pick in their league's draft, there's one important question to consider: Which star running back should you take?

    Like last year, there are several standouts to consider. McCaffrey, Cook, Henry and Kamara could all be in the conversation, and there may not be a bad choice among them. They have all proved themselves in recent years and could be in store for big showings in 2021.

    McCaffrey should be the first player selected, though, despite being limited to three games in 2020 due to injuries. When the Panthers running back was on the field, he was as effective as ever (374 yards and six touchdowns). So, as long as he stays healthy in 2021, there's no reason to think he won't return to form.

    Not only is the 24-year-old one of the NFL's top rushers at his best, but he's also typically involved in Carolina's passing game. He had more than 100 catches in both 2018 and 2019, and he went over 1,000 yards in both rushing and receiving in 2019. It wouldn't be a surprise to see a return to that production next season.

    Cook is coming off his best season yet, while Henry has led the NFL in rushing each of the past two years, so both should be safe picks at No. 1 if you're skeptical of whether McCaffrey will bounce right back.

    It might be a bit riskier to draft Kamara, though, as it's not yet clear what the Saints offense will look like in 2021 with veteran quarterback Drew Brees potentially retiring this offseason.

Adams Is Top Choice at Wide Receiver

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    Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

    Adams is the clear top playmaker on the Packers offense after the wide receiver put up some of his best numbers in his seventh NFL season.

    The 28-year-old set career highs in both receptions (115) and touchdowns (18) while recording 1,374 yards in 14 games for Green Bay in 2020.

    Considering how frequently Adams gets into the end zone (scoring a touchdown in every game from Weeks 7-14), it's likely he'll be the first wide receiver to come off the board in fantasy football drafts this year.

    Hill, Hopkins and Diggs will also be strong options and potential first-round picks, but the Packers star is continuing to take his game to new levels.

    There have been rumors that Green Bay could trade Aaron Rodgers this offseason, but head coach Matt LaFleur told reporters earlier in February that the quarterback will "absolutely" be with the team in 2021. And with the 2020 NFL MVP under center, that should mean more big numbers for Adams.

    So fantasy managers should feel confident in adding the Fresno State product to their roster next season. While he may not post career numbers after an incredible 2020, his consistent production could be key in helping a manager win a fantasy title in 2021.

Is Kelce Worthy of 1st-Round Consideration?

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    Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

    There's no question about it: Travis Kelce is the best fantasy tight end in the NFL. That's not going to change in 2021. And with so few top-tier tight ends around the league, he could be worthy of first-round consideration in fantasy drafts next season.

    It may sound unusual to take a tight end in the first round, but fantasy managers who had the Kansas City Chiefs star in 2020 basically had an extra wide receiver in their lineup every week. He set career highs in receptions (105), yards (1,416) and touchdowns (11) last season.

    Based on ESPN standard scoring, Kelce had 312.76 fantasy points last season. Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller ranked second at the position with 278.6. Then, there was a huge drop-off, with Washington's Logan Thomas (176.62), Green Bay's Robert Tonyan (176.6) and Detroit's T.J. Hockenson (175.3) rounding out the top five.

    So it could be worth drafting the 31-year-old in the first round of fantasy drafts in 2021, especially if your pick falls in the bottom half of the order and you miss out on the elite tier of running backs.

    And if Kelce remains on the board heading into the second round, you should try to add him as soon as possible.

    The Chiefs' high-powered offense isn't likely to slow down anytime soon, either, so there's no need to worry about his production. He should continue to put up big numbers and remain the No. 1 fantasy tight end in 2021.