Fantasy Football 2021: Best Strategy for Each Pick in 12-Team Mock Drafts

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIAugust 20, 2021

Fantasy Football 2021: Best Strategy for Each Pick in 12-Team Mock Drafts

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    Every pick in a fantasy football draft is important. Even when you're in the final rounds, you're looking for sleeper players who could stick on your roster and perhaps play a big role in helping you win your league's championship at the end of the season.

    The first round is also crucial, however. Even though every player who goes within the first 10-12 picks is a star who will likely put up a ton of points, it's still vital to make the right pick. Because depending on which selection you own, there are different strategies to employ. And the first player you pick could set up your plan for the rest of the draft.

    Who should you be taking? Which positions should you target after that? What are the keys to building a strong team early?

    Here's a look at how the first round of a draft could go, along with how different picks can impact your strategy from there.

Picks 1-4

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    1. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers

    2. Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings

    3. Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans

    4. Alvin Kamara RB, New Orleans

    These are the four players who should come off the board first in every fantasy draft. They may not always get selected in the same order, as managers will have different opinions of them. But Christian McCaffrey should be the first taken, because he's likely to have a bounce-back year after his injury-riddled 2020.

    Any of these backs will set you up with a top player to build your fantasy roster around. And from here, there will be many different ways you can take your draft strategy.

    But one interesting route to consider is taking another running back immediately in the back half of the second round. There's a ton of depth at wide receiver this year, and it's always valuable to have two starting running backs you can trust to get plenty of touches during the season.

    So after taking McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Derrick Henry or Alvin Kamara, it could be smart to take a running back such as Clyde Edwards-Helaire, David Montgomery or D'Andre Swift, depending on who is still available when you're back on the clock in the second round.

    Then, you can address the rest of your roster in the rounds that follow and wait a bit to add RB depth, at which point you can afford to go after a high-risk sleeper option.

Picks 5-8

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    5. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

    6. Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns

    7. Travis Kelce, TE Kansas City Chiefs

    8. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

    How early should you consider taking Travis Kelce? This is the ideal range. If you don't get him here, he's going to get scooped up quickly before you're back on the clock in the second round. And it's not an entirely crazy idea to think about the Kansas City Chiefs star as a legitimate option at No. 5.

    The 31-year-old is a consistently strong fantasy performer. And because he puts up receiver-type numbers as a tight end, it's like being able to have an extra wide receiver in your lineup. Plus, you don't have to worry about how you're going to get production out of your tight end spot all season.

    If your pick is in this range and you don't take Kelce, you should take a running back. Ezekiel Elliott and Saquon Barkley are both candidates for bounce-back seasons, while Nick Chubb was terrific in 2020 when healthy. Plus, much like those who have a top-four pick, it sets you up to potentially take another running back in the second.

    And because your pick is in this range, you could pair one of these backs with somebody like Joe Mixon, Antonio Gibson or Najee Harris. Or you may even get one of the top wide receivers who fall into the second, giving you two top-tier playmakers to build around.

Picks 9-12

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    Zach Bolinger/Associated Press

    9. Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers

    10. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts

    11. Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers

    12. Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

    By picking in the final third of the first round, you're going to miss out on the six or seven top running backs and likely Kelce. There are still a few first-round-worthy RBs to land here, like Jonathan Taylor and Austin Ekeler. But you can also consider taking one of the top wide receivers in the NFL at this point.

    Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill and the Buffalo Bills' Stefon Diggs are the clear top receiving tier in the league, and any of the three is likely to give you huge numbers of points consistently this season. And if you take one of them with a late first-round pick, you can still then target a top running back when the order snakes back the other way at the start of the second round.

    However, if you take a wide receiver here, it's probably wise to either take running backs with each of your next two picks, or possibly even a quarterback with your third-round selection. Patrick Mahomes may be gone, but Josh Allen and Kyler Murray should be available.

    This year, it's not the best strategy to take wide receivers with two of your first three picks, and definitely not each of your first two picks, because you're going to miss out on all of the best running backs.

    There are so many potential breakout receivers that you can wait to address some of those spots in the later rounds.