Fantasy Football 2021: Early Mock Draft Heading into Training Camp

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistJuly 19, 2021

Fantasy Football 2021: Early Mock Draft Heading into Training Camp

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    The start of NFL training camps is nearly here. The Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers are set to open camps on Wednesday, and the start of the preseason will soon follow. Pittsburgh and Dallas will face off in the Hall of Fame Game on Thursday, August 5.

    The arrival of training camps and the preseason means that the regular season isn't far off. It also means that it's time to ramp up the fantasy football research.

    For those in season-long leagues, drafts are likely to take place within the next month. To help you prepare, you'll find a three-round fantasy mock here, along with a look at some of the safest and riskiest picks of the early rounds.

    This is a 12-team mock draft based on point-per-reception (PPR) scoring.

Round 1

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    1.01: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers

    1.02: Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings

    1.03: Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints

    1.04: Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans

    1.05: Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

    1.06: Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

    1.07: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts

    1.08: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

    1.09: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Arizona Cardinals

    1.10: Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers

    1.11: Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

    1.12: Stefon Diggs, WR, Minnesota Vikings


    Injuries are always a risk when it comes to early fantasy picks. When a first-round selection goes down—as Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley did in 2020—it can derail a fantasy campaign. However, this shouldn't be enough to prevent McCaffrey from being a top-three selection in PPR formats.

    The Carolina Panthers back topped 1,000 rushing and 1,000 receiving yards two years ago when he was healthy. A lot can happen between now and Week 1, but McCaffrey appears to be back to pre-injury form now.

    "I'm back to 100 percent," McCaffrey said, per Jonathan M. Alexander of the Charlotte Observer.  "I'm healthy and ready to roll."

    Injuries are less of a concern for New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara, but the change at quarterback adds some serious risk to picking him. Drew Brees has retired, and in the four games without Brees last season, Kamara averaged 72 scrimmage yards, four receptions and a touchdown.

    These are decent numbers, but they're far from what we've become accustomed to seeing from Kamara. This doesn't mean to avoid Kamara altogether, but managers must know that the combination of Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston at quarterback could lead to a dip in production.

Round 2

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    2.01: Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers

    2.02: Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns

    2.03: Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

    2.04: Antonio Gibson, RB, Washington Football Team

    2.05: Darren Waller, TE, Las Vegas Raiders

    2.06: Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons

    2.07: Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers

    2.08: Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings

    2.09: DK Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks

    2.10: Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints

    2.11: A.J. Brown, WR, Tennessee Titans

    2.12: Cam Akers, RB, Los Angeles Rams


    While a change at quarterback could hurt Kamara's stock, Aaron Jones could benefit from one. The Green Bay Packers still don't know if Aaron Rodgers will play in 2021, and if he doesn't, Jones could become the centerpiece of the offense.

    Green Bay also has 2020 second-round pick AJ Dillon at running back, but Jamaal Williams departed in the offseason. Jones should not lose his position as the Packers' lead back this season.

    And if Rodgers does play, Jones' stock should still remain high. He finished the 2020 season with 1,104 rushing yards, 47 receptions, 355 receiving yards and 11 combined touchdowns. Consider him one of the safest running-back picks whether Rodgers plays or not.

    Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers, on the other hand, is not a sure thing. He flashed a lot of potential as a rookie last season—he rushed for 625 yards and had 123 receiving yards with three combined scores—but he also split time pretty evenly with Darrell Henderson.

    With Matthew Stafford arriving in Los Angeles, the Rams may not lean on the run quite as much. Akers is still a high-upside pick, but he's a boom-or-bust prospect and a gamble in the first two rounds.

Round 3

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    3.01: George Kittle, TE, San Francisco 49ers

    3.02: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs

    3.03: Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers

    3.04: Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

    3.05: Allen Robinson II, WR, Chicago Bears

    3.06: Terry McLaurin, WR, Washington Football Tam

    3.07: Julio Jones, WR, Tennessee Titans

    3.08: Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills

    3.09: Amari Cooper, WR, Dallas Cowboys

    3.10: David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears

    3.11: D.J. Moore, WR, Carolina Panthers

    3.12: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs


    If Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is available in the third round, grab him. There isn't a signal-caller with a higher floor in the NFL. Mahomes has topped the 4,000-yard mark in each of his three seasons as a starter—despite missing two games in 2019—and has thrown at least 26 touchdown passes.

    In 2020, Mahomes finished with 4,740 passing yards and 38 touchdowns in 15 games.

    While quarterbacks like Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson provide plenty of upside, managers aren't going to miss on Mahomes—barring injury, of course.

    Tennessee Titans wide receiver Julio Jones does carry some boom-or-bust potential, however. After long being a can't-miss fantasy option, Jones may have finally fallen to the second tier of receivers. This is because of both his age (32) and injury history (he missed seven games in 2020), but it's more a product of his new situation.

    The Titans run a ground-heavy attack centered around Derrick Henry. Tennessee ranked second in rushing attempts last season but only 30th in pass attempts.

    Jones can still be a standout playmaker if healthy, but he isn't likely to have the same volume of work that he enjoyed with the Atlanta Falcons.