Fantasy Football 2021: Examining Expert Mock Drafts After Preseason Week 1

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistAugust 16, 2021

Fantasy Football 2021: Examining Expert Mock Drafts After Preseason Week 1

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Associated Press

    A week's worth of NFL preseason games are in the books.

    In three-plus weeks, the first actual contest of the 2021 campaign will kick off.

    Football is all the way back, folks, which probably puts you in the heart of fantasy-prep season.

    Luckily, a slew of experts are around to guide you through the process, and we've put several under the microscope here with a roundup of some of the latest expert mocks from around the web.

12-Team PPR Mock

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    Tom Canavan/Associated Press

    B/R's own Gary Davenport recently participated in a 12-team mock with experts from around the industry. For reference, they used a standard setup of one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, a tight end, a defense, a kicker and a flex in a points-per-reception league.

    In the first round, two names stand out as interesting selections, and they wound up in back-to-back spots. First, Kansas Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce went No. 8. Then, New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley went No. 9.

    That seems early for any tight end, although as Davenport noted it's largely in line with Kelce's average draft position. For Barkley, who's working his way back from a torn ACL, there's a point at which the reward outweighs the risk. This feels like the right sweet spot with Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler, Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill and Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs rounding out the first round behind Barkley.

    Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes unsurprisingly paced his position as the No. 7 pick of the second round. The next quarterback wasn't taken until the fifth round, where Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills (first in that round), Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals (eighth) and Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers (10th) all went.

    For those on rookie watch, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris was the first freshman taken as the fifth pick of the second round. Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts was the next, going seventh in the fourth round. The first rookie quarterback taken was Trey Lance of the San Francisco 49ers, who opened the 10th round.

10-Team, Half-PPR Mock at ESPN

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    Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

    ESPN's fantasy crew recently got together for a 10-team, half-point PPR mock.

    The first standout, again, is Barkley, who went fourth overall in this mock—trailing Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook and Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry in that order. A healthy Barkley could be the top scorer in fantasy, so the optimism isn't hard to follow.

    Only wide receiver went in the first round—Davante Adams of the Green Back Packers—and the next didn't go until midway through the second (Hill). But when the per-reception bonus drops to a half-point, the premium on featured running backs rises even higher. There were 15 running backs off the board before the sixth wideout went.

    Harris paced the rookie class here, too, although he went even earlier as the 12th overall pick. This time, Pitts was fourth among freshmen (No. 60), behind Harris, Jacksonville Jaguars running back Travis Etienne (No. 44) and Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (No. 50).

    Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence paced first-year players at his position by landing at the seventh pick of the 13th round (No. 127). Two other rookie quarterbacks cracked the 16-round mock, both in the 15th round with Lance at No. 143 and Justin Fields of the Chicago Bears at No. 149.

12-Team PPR Mock from CBS

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    Derick Hingle/Associated Press

    CBS Sports' fantasy crew joined forces on a recent 12-team mock using the PPR format. The league also rewards six points for all touchdowns and one point each for 10 rushing yards, 10 receiving yards and 25 passing yards.

    It took just two picks for this mock to stand out, as Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints went second overall, which has otherwise been the customary spot for Cook. That's not an egregious reach on Kamara, who's a first-round lock, but it feels rich for a player who scored nine of his 21 touchdowns in two contests and no longer gets to work with Drew Brees.

    To keep up with Barkley Watch, New York's lead rusher just cracked the first round as the 12th pick. That feels too cautious given where his ceiling sits.

    The return of the PPR format didn't place a huge premium on pass-catchers early on with only three cracking the top 15 picks: Kelce (No. 9), Adams (No. 10) and Hill (No. 11). But when the dam broke in the second round, it stayed open. Seven picks that round were receivers or tight ends, as were seven picks from the third round.

    As for the freshman signal-callers, Lance was the high man as the 136th pick. That put him 18 spots above Fields and 22 over Lawrence, the only other rookie passers to make the 15-round mock.