Fantasy Football 2021: Early Mock Draft and Rankings Before Training Camps

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistJuly 23, 2021

Fantasy Football 2021: Early Mock Draft and Rankings Before Training Camps

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Within the next week, all 32 teams will return to the practice field for training camp. In the meantime, sift through recent practice reports and adjust your fantasy football draft queue.

    This year, some of the top projected picks come with a risk.

    Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley will attempt to bounce back from an injury-riddled 2020 campaign. The latter doesn’t have a definitive answer for his Week 1 status coming off a torn ACL.

    Disgruntled star quarterback Aaron Rodgers skipped the Green Bay Packers' spring practices, so consider wideout Davante Adams with caution. Second-year signal-caller Jordan Love may start the season opener for the Packers.

    As fantasy managers face pressing draft questions, we’ll lay out a first-round mock for 12-team point-per-reception leagues, rank the top 50 players and break down three must-have playmakers for the 2021 season.

1st-Round Mock Draft and Top 50 Rankings

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    Nell Redmond/Associated Press

    2021 Fantasy Football 1st-Round Mock Draft

    1.01: RB Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers

    1.02: RB Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints 

    1.03: RB Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings 

    1.04: RB Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

    1.05: RB Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

    1.06: RB Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

    1.07: RB Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers 

    1.08: RB Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers

    1.09: RB Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts

    1.10: WR Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs

    1.11: WR Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills

    1.12: WR DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals


    2021 Fantasy Football Top 50

    1: RB Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers

    2: RB Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints

    3: RB Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings

    4: RB Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

    5: RB Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

    6: RB Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

    7: RB Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers

    8: RB Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers

    9: RB Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts

    10: WR Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs 

    11: WR Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills

    12: WR DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals

    13. RB Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns

    14. RB Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

    15. TE Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

    16. WR Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints

    17. WR Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers

    18. QB Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

    19. RB J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens

    20. WR DK Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks

    21. RB Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers

    22. TE Darren Waller, Las Vegas Raiders

    23. TE George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers

    24. WR Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings

    25. WR Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons

    26. RB David Montgomery, Chicago Bears

    27. RB Antonio Gibson, Washington Football Team

    28. QB Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills

    29. WR Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

    30. WR Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers

    31. WR Julio Jones, Tennessee Titans

    32. QB Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals

    33. QB Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

    34. RB Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks

    35. RB Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders

    36. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs

    37. RB Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles

    38. RB Darrell Henderson, Los Angeles Rams

    39. RB Myles Gaskin, Miami Dolphins

    40. RB D'Andre Swift, Detroit Lions 

    41. RB Chase Edmonds, Arizona Cardinals

    42. WR Allen Robinson II, Chicago Bears

    43. WR Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys

    44. WR Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams

    45. WR Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    46. WR Terry McLaurin, Washington Football Team

    47. TE Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens

    48. RB Mike Davis, Atlanta Falcons

    49. RB Kareem Hunt, Cleveland Browns

    50. QB Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

Biggest Breakout: RB J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens

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    Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

    J.K. Dobbins ranks 19th among the top 50 fantasy football players listed above. He's the probable featured back in the Baltimore Ravens backfield who could see more work in the passing game for the 2021 campaign. 

    According to The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec, the Ravens noticed an uptick in production once Dobbins handled the bulk of the carries last season, and they want to give him more targets.

    "The Ravens hit another level offensively last season after Dobbins was thrust into a prominent role. Despite sporadic use, Dobbins still finished with 925 total yards and nine touchdowns and he averaged more than six yards per touch. The Ravens believe he's capable of more and would like to get him more involved in the passing game."

    As a rookie, Dobbins only started in one game, but he logged double-digit rush attempts in eight contests after the Ravens' Week 7 bye. The Ohio State product finished with 805 rushing yards and nine touchdowns, averaging six yards per carry. He only caught 18 out of 24 targets for 120 yards, though.

    Quarterback Lamar Jackson and running back Gus Edwards will likely remain involved in the rushing attack, but Dobbins' expanded role in the passing game could add on an extra 400-500 yards in addition to 1,000 yards on the ground. With about 1,400-1,500 yards from scrimmage and at least 10 touchdowns, he would rank top 10 among running backs in PPR leagues.

Best Sleeper Pick: WR Henry Ruggs III, Las Vegas Raiders

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    The Las Vegas Raiders lost Nelson Agholor to the New England Patriots in free agency. In 2020, he led the Silver and Black's wideouts in yards (896) and touchdowns (eight) while averaging 18.7 yards per catch. 

    The Raiders signed John Brown and Willie Snead IV to bolster the receiving corps, but head coach Jon Gruden may look to justify his first pick of the 2020 draft. According to The Athletic’s Vic Tafur, Henry Ruggs III will have plenty of opportunities to leave his mark on the 2021 campaign.

    "Gruden hears the criticism of the Ruggs pick, so he is the one receiver we can lock in for a lot of targets,” Tafur wrote.

    Last year, Ruggs suffered a hamstring injury in the season opener and landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list late in the term, which cost him three games. Still, the Alabama product had an absurdly low number of targets (43). 

    General manager Mike Mayock wanted Ruggs to work on his strength, footwork and route-running during the offseason. Gruden said the speedy wideout "looks much better" than he did last year.

    As a starter in three-wide receiver sets, Ruggs should have a strong year if he sees a consistent number of targets, which seems like a point of emphasis in Gruden's offense for the 2021 season.

    With an 11.02 average draft position, Ruggs has late-round sleeper potential.

Top Rookie: RB Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Don't overthink this selection. Among the rookies, Najee Harris has the most obvious pathway to a heavy workload at the most important position in standard leagues.

    The Pittsburgh Steelers let running back James Conner walk in free agency. In 2020, through 13 outings, he logged 204 touches for 936 yards and six touchdowns from scrimmage. As the Steelers' top pick in this year's draft, Harris is the presumptive starter set to take over for Conner.

    At 6'2", 230 pounds with reliable hands out of the backfield, Harris has the body type and skill set to become the total package on the pro level. Over his past two terms at Alabama, he racked up 2,690 rushing yards for 39 touchdowns. In that span, the 2020 Doak Walker Award winner made strides as a pass-catcher, recording 70 receptions for 729 yards and 11 scores.

    Even though the Steelers lost four starting offensive linemen from the previous campaign, they signed five-time Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner, who can lead the way for a power run game between the tackles. With his vision, balance and quick feet, Harris could mask the shortcomings of an average-to-below-average offensive line.

    Because of his potential touch volume as a workhorse tailback, Harris belongs in the top 20 on your fantasy draft board. He'll likely log close to 20 touches per game, which is an ideal situation for a high-upside rookie.


    Average draft position courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator

    2020 fantasy points provided by FantasyPros


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