Fantasy Football 2021: Preseason Mock Draft Strategy, Rankings and Analysis

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIAugust 26, 2021

Fantasy Football 2021: Preseason Mock Draft Strategy, Rankings and Analysis

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    Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

    The 2021 fantasy football season has arrived. Well, kind of.

    While the NFL regular season doesn't begin until Sept. 9, and it won't be possible to start accumulating fantasy points until then, many leagues have already held their drafts for the year. And for those that haven't, they'll do so within the next two weeks.

    It's never too late for some last-minute preparation, either. Fantasy managers will be making important decisions while building the cores of their teams. And while it's always possible to rebound from a bad draft, it's always better to have strong, reliable players to build a team around.

    With fantasy draft season in full swing, here's a look at some positional rankings, along with strategies you may want to test out while participating in mock drafts during your preparations.


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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

    2. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals

    3. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills

    4. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

    5. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

    6. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

    7. Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    8. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

    9. Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers

    10. Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans


    Would it be nice to get one of the top quarterbacks on this list? Sure. But it's also not worth reaching and missing out on reliable running backs and top-tier wide receivers in order to land a QB such as Patrick Mahomes, Kyler Murray or Josh Allen.

    And sometimes, that's going to happen in drafts, depending on how other managers prioritize those quarterbacks. There's no need to be taking a QB in the first few rounds, though, considering the depth at the position and the strong options you'll still have by the eighth or ninth round.

    Ryan Tannehill is a sleeper coming off a strong season, and he may put up even bigger numbers in a Titans offense that adds Julio Jones to a group of playmakers that already had A.J. Brown and Derrick Henry. Tannehill has also been a reliable option in recent years.

    Even if you miss out on these 10 quarterbacks, others such as Philadelphia's Jalen Hurts and Cincinnati's Joe Burrow are potential breakout players. So consider stacking up on running backs and wide receivers and building a strong core there before addressing quarterback.

Running Backs

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    1. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers

    2. Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings

    3. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints

    4. Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

    5. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys

    6. Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers

    7. Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers

    8. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

    9. Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns

    10. Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals


    These are the players you're going to want to be targeting early in the draft. The top 10 running backs will all be off the board within the first two rounds, as will a few more. And if you miss out on them, you may have some trouble this fantasy season.

    It can be hard to find RB options on the waiver wire later in the season. Plus, you don't want to be stuck with a group of running backs who all play for teams that split carries between multiple players. It's too risky, and there will be too many weeks where those types of RBs don't come through for you.

    How do you avoid this? Take two running backs in the first two or three rounds, and potentially even three, among your first four picks. There are going to be options for the other positions late in the draft. But if you miss out on landing at least two of the top 15-20 running backs, it's going to be an uphill battle in 2021.

Wide Receivers

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    1. Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers

    2. Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs

    3. Stefon Diggs, Buffalo Bills

    4. DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals

    5. Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons

    6. Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers

    7. Allen Robinson II, Chicago Bears

    8. DK Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks

    9. Terry McLaurin, Washington Football Team

    10. A.J. Brown, Tennessee Titans


    There's a ton of depth at wide receiver this year, so it's not a necessity to land any of the top 10 players at the position. It could still be nice to sprinkle in one of them while you're taking running backs early, but it should also be fine to wait until the middle rounds to find potential starting options.

    However, you're going to want to have at least a few receivers on your roster by the midpoint of your draft. There is eventually a drop-off in quality, and you don't want to end up with a bunch of WRs who are listed at No. 3 on their teams' depth charts.

    It's not urgent to load up with a bunch of wide receivers in the first few rounds, but don't wait too long. A good mix is to have three running backs and three receivers by the end of the sixth round.

Tight Ends

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    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. Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens

    6. Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons

    7. Robert Tonyan, Green Bay Packers

    8. Logan Thomas, Washington Football Team

    9. Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins

    10. Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams


    Three tight ends are going to be taken within the first three or four rounds: Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Darren Waller. The next tier of TEs (T.J. Hockenson, Mark Andrews and Kyle Pitts) may not stay on the board much longer than that. Of those six, only the top three are worth taking early, and even then, you'll be missing out on key running backs and wide receivers if you do that.

    Even though those top-tier tight ends have outperformed the rest of the players at the position by a lot, it's a gamble that may not be worth it. Especially because it's still a sound strategy to take a late-round flier on a tight end and then stream the position throughout the season.

    There are always going to be waiver-wire tight ends who have a strong matchup and can be plugged into a lineup on a given week. So, if tight ends such as Tyler Higbee or Minnesota's Irv Smith Jr. don't work out when you draft them later on, you can keep switching out players at the position this season and get positive results.