Fantasy Football 2021: Mobile Cheatsheet, Mock-Draft Strategy for Top Positions
The NFL preseason got underway Thursday night, which means that the regular season is right around the corner. It also means that we are approaching peak draft season for fantasy football enthusiasts.
Ideally, drafts will occur late in the three-week preseason—exhibition injuries are a thing. However, it's not too early to start laying the foundation for a strong roster by digging into some draft strategy.
Here we'll examine the top players at each key offensive position—quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end—and provide some tips for drafting. Just keep in mind that with several positional battles still unsettled around the league, these rankings are subject to change.
1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
2. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
3. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals
4. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
5. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
6. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
7. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
8. Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers
9. Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
10. Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
11. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
12. Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams
13 Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars
14. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
15. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
Don't overdraft a quarterback. This is a sound tip for all season-long formats, though it applies less to dynasty drafts, where top-tier signal-callers don't often make their way back to the draft pool.
Kansas City Chiefs signal-caller Patrick Mahomes remains the top quarterback to target and arguably the only one worth reaching for in the first couple of rounds—though Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills is quickly approaching top-20 territory.
Pay attention to your scoring format when selecting a signal-caller too. If your league awards more points for rushing touchdowns than passing touchdowns—say, six points versus four—dual-threat quarterbacks should have their value adjusted accordingly.
If not targeting one of the top four or five quarterbacks, waiting until the middle rounds of the draft can provide tremendous value. There's little reason to reach for, say, Russell Wilson, when a platoon of mid-level starters can be nearly as effective when playing the matchups.
In most scoring formats, it's smart to fill out your starting running back and wide receiver spots first.
1. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
2. Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
3. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints
4. Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans
5. Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers
6. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
7. Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers
8. Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts
10. Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns
11. Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers
12. Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals
13. Antonio Gibson, Washington Football Team
14. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs
15. Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks
16. D'Andre Swift, Detroit Lions
17. David Montgomery, Chicago Bears
18. Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders
19. J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens
20. Travis Etienne, Jacksonville Jaguars
Scoring format is everything when considering which running backs to target early. In standard-scoring leagues, Tennessee Titans' star Derrick Henry reigns supreme. He has legitimate 2,000-yard potential and is going to see a hefty workload every single week.
In points-per-reception (PPR) formats, however, players like Christian McCaffrey of the Carolina Panthers and Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints potentially hold more value. Backs who regularly see four to six receptions per game are going to provide managers with a high-value floor.
Regardless of the scoring format, it's best to target three-down backs who aren't regularly sharing the workload. One exception here is Nick Chubb of the Cleveland Browns. While he splits time with Kareem Hunt, Cleveland's run-heavy offense generally provides ample opportunities for both backs on a weekly basis.
Committee backfields are best avoided in the early rounds, as it can be difficult to predict the weekly workload. While the NFL has become a pass-oriented league, running back is still the marquee position in fantasy. Having an uncertain floor at that position can be a recipe for disaster.
1. Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers
2. Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills
3. Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs
4. DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals
5. Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers
6. Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings
7. Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons
8. A.J. Brown, Tennessee Titans
9. DK Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks
10. Allen Robinson II, Chicago Bears
11. CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys
12. Terry McLaurin, Washington Football Team
13. Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
14. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
15. Robert Woods, Los Angeles Rams
16. Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys
17. Julio Jones, Tennessee Titans
18. D.J. Moore, Carolina Panthers
19. Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks
20. Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings
Drafting wide receivers shouldn't be a complicated endeavor. Target No. 1 receivers who regularly dominate their team's target share. Green Bay Packers wideout Davante Adams and Buffalo Bills receiver Stefon Diggs are two prime examples.
Adams is always involved in the Packers passing attack, and Diggs led the NFL in receptions this past season.
Loading up on high-volume receivers is especially important in PPR leagues because it helps create a low-risk, high-floor scenario. Big-play threats who don't see a plethora of targets are more valuable in standard leagues, where yards and touchdowns are more valuable than receptions.
If possible, target two No. 1 receivers for your starting positions. Complementary receivers can be valuable, though they are often best utilized as flex options. If you can land two No. 1 targets within the first four rounds, you are going to be in a good place entering the season.
Don't be afraid to target rookie receivers early, either. Rookie wideouts have been extremely valuable in recent seasons—Justin Jefferson had 1,400 receiving yards in 2020—and managers can land 1,000-yard potential in the flex by targeting a first-year pass-catcher like Ja'Marr Chase of the Cincinnati Bengals.
1. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
2. George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers
3. Darren Waller, Las Vegas Raiders
4. T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions
5. Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons
6. Noah Fant, Denver Broncos
7. Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles
8. Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens
9. Robert Tonyan, Green Bay Packers
10. Logan Thomas, Washington Football Team
11. Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams
12. Irv Smith Jr., Minnesota Vikings
13. Hunter Henry, New England Patriots
14. Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins
15. Jonnu Smith, New England Patriots
There are a few exceptions to this rule, but it's best not to draft a tight end too early. If you're not targeting Travis Kelce, George Kittle or Darren Waller—three tight ends who often serve as their team's No. 1 receiving targets—the position can wait until the middle rounds of the draft.
Rookie tight ends haven't been big-time fantasy contributors in recent years, but Kyle Pitts of the Atlanta Falcons could buck the trend. He has top-five potential and could be a 1,000-yard receiver out of the gate.
"He has the incredible combination of elite athleticism, size, skills and work ethic that will allow him to be one of the best tight ends and receiving threats in the NFL for years to come," Nate Tice of the B/R Scouting Department wrote.
Workload should be considered in all scoring formats, but landing a full-time starter is particularly important in PPR. If possible, avoid committee tight end situations before the middle rounds of your fantasy draft.