2021 Fantasy Football Way-Too-Early Mock Draft: Shocking First-Round Pick Might Make Perfect Sense

Michael Fabiano and the rest of the SI Fantasy staff teamed up to put together this way-too-early 2021 fantasy football mock draft.
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The 2020 fantasy football season was a wild ride of injuries, pandemic-related player absences, schedule changes and so much more. How wild was it? The Broncos had to start a practice squad wide receiver at quarterback when their top signal-callers were deemed unavailable due to COVID-19.

Luckily, the NFL and fantasy footballers alike could navigate a full season, and fantasy leaguers crowned a champion. While the NFL has three more games to crown a champion of its own, it's never a bad time to start to look ahead to the 2021 NFL campaign. Assuming we’re back to (somewhat) normal, what can we all expect from fantasy football drafts? Well, the Sports Illustrated fantasy team got together for a mock draft that might reveal some insights.

This mock draft is 10 rounds and based on a 12-team, full PPR format. Each of our fantasy managers was required to draft at least one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, a flex starter (RB/WR/TE), and a tight end. Incoming rookies were eligible, though their value remains in question until they're drafted.

So without further ado, here’s our initial look at the 2021 fantasy campaign! 

Note: * denotes a player entering a contract year and slated to be a free agent.

ROUND 1

  • 1.1. Michael Fabiano: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers
  • 1.2. Frankie Taddeo: Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings
  • 1.3. Corey Parson: Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints
  • 1.4. Steve Renner: Derrick Henry, RB, Titans
  • 1.5. Matthew De Lima: Saquon Barkley, RB, Giants
  • 1.6. Casey Olson: Aaron Jones, RB, Packers*
  • 1.7. Shawn Childs: Davante Adams, WR, Packers
  • 1.8. Scott Atkins: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Colts
  • 1.9. Ian Ritchie: Justin Jefferson, WR, Vikings
  • 1.10. Ben Heisler: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys
  • 1.11. Bill Enright: Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs
  • 1.12. Roy Larking: Stefon Diggs, WR, Bills

Notes: Six running backs came off the board to kick it off, with McCaffrey leading the way. While he missed most of the season due to injuries, CMC averaged more than 30 fantasy points in his three games. To the surprise of no one, Adams was the first wideout selected, but Jefferson's being picked as the second receiver opened eyes. The question, though, is should it be a surprise? From Week 3 on, Jefferson was the fourth-highest scoring wide receiver in fantasy football. Elliott dropped down to No. 10, where he could be a steal. Remember, he averaged more than 22 fantasy points a game before Dak Prescott was lost for the year.

ROUND 2

  • 2.13. Roy Larking: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Cardinals
  • 2.14. Bill Enright: Nick Chubb, RB, Browns
  • 2.15. Ben Heisler: Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs
  • 2.16. Ian Ritchie: Calvin Ridley, WR, Falcons
  • 2.17. Scott Atkins: David Montgomery, RB, Bears
  • 2.18. Shawn Childs: Michael Thomas, WR, Saints
  • 2.19. Casey Olson: DK Metcalf, WR, Seahawks
  • 2.20. Matthew De Lima: Josh Jacobs, RB, Raiders
  • 2.21. Steve Renner: Miles Sanders, RB, Eagles
  • 2.22. Corey Parson: James Robinson, RB, Jaguars
  • 2.23. Frankie Taddeo: J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ravens
  • 2.24. Michael Fabiano: Austin Ekeler, RB, Chargers

Notes: There were no big surprises in this round, although Kelce's NOT being a first-round selection might come as somewhat of a shock. I didn't expect Thomas to go ahead of Metcalf considering the Saints' questions at quarterback, and the fact that Montgomery went as high as he did was notable. I'm not saying he wasn't a true league winner this past season, but I do wonder whether he'll be able to duplicate his high level of production when the schedule is tougher and with Tarik Cohen back. The fact that Robinson, Dobbins and Ekeler lasted until the end of the round proves the depth at running back will be much better in 2021.

ROUND 3

  • 3.25. Michael Fabiano: Allen Robinson, WR, Bears*
  • 3.26. Frankie Taddeo: Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers
  • 3.27. Corey Parson: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Chiefs
  • 3.28. Steve Renner: Terry McLaurin, WR, Football Team
  • 3.29. Matthew De Lima: Antonio Gibson, RB, Football Team
  • 3.30. Casey Olson: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs
  • 3.31. Shawn Childs: A.J. Brown, WR, Titans
  • 3.32. Scott Atkins: D’Andre Swift, RB, Lions
  • 3.33. Ian Ritchie: Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals
  • 3.34. Ben Heisler: Cam Akers, RB, Rams
  • 3.35. Bill Enright: Darren Waller, TE, Raiders
  • 3.36. Roy Larking: Chris Carson, RB, Seahawks*

Notes: This round had a few potential bargains at running back, with Edwards-Helaire, Gibson, Swift, Mixon and Akers coming off the board. Akers's stock certainly rose due to his late-season rookie success, and I can see him being picked higher in future drafts. Mahomes was the first quarterback off the board, and Waller went as the No. 2 tight end behind Kelce and ahead of George Kittle. The slide that Kittle saw in this draft was surprising. Stay tuned for that.

ROUND 4

  • 4.37. Roy Larking: Myles Gaskin, RB, Dolphins
  • 4.38. Bill Enright: Ronald Jones, RB, Buccaneers
  • 4.39. Ben Heisler: Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers
  • 4.40. Ian Ritchie: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Cowboys
  • 4.41. Scott Atkins: Josh Allen, QB, Bills
  • 4.42. Shawn Childs: Kareem Hunt, RB, Browns
  • 4.43. Casey Olson: Kenyan Drake, RB, Cardinals
  • 4.44. Matthew De Lima: Adam Thielen, WR, Vikings
  • 4.45. Steve Renner: Diontae Johnson, WR, Steelers
  • 4.46. Corey Parson: Will Fuller, WR, Texans*
  • 4.47. Frankie Taddeo: Tyler Lockett, WR, Seahawks
  • 4.48. Michael Fabiano: Amari Cooper, WR, Cowboys

Notes: Seven of the 12 picks in this round were wide receivers, with Lamb being the most notable as he went ahead of his teammate, Cooper. Lamb was the WR11 and averaged more than 17 fantasy points in games played with Dak Prescott under center, so it's certainly not a reach. The fact that wideouts like Thielen, Johnson, Fuller, Lockett and Cooper were available in the fourth round isn't a shock but more a look into how deep this position will be in 2021 drafts. Allen, this past season's No. 1 quarterback, was the second signal-caller selected.

ROUND 5

  • 5.49. Michael Fabiano: James Conner, RB, Steelers*
  • 5.50. Frankie Taddeo: Tee Higgins, WR, Bengals
  • 5.51. Corey Parson: Julio Jones, WR, Falcons
  • 5.52. Steve Renner: Chris Godwin, WR, Buccaneers*
  • 5.53. Matthew De Lima: Kyler Murray, QB, Cardinals
  • 5.54. Casey Olson: Robert Woods, WR, Rams
  • 5.55. Shawn Childs: JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers*
  • 5.56. Scott Atkins: Cooper Kupp, WR, Rams
  • 5.57. Ian Ritchie: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, 49ers
  • 5.58. Ben Heisler: Kenny Golladay, WR, Lions*
  • 5.59. Bill Enright: Tyler Boyd, WR, Bengals
  • 5.60. Roy Larking: Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens

Notes: This was another heavy round for wideouts, and the names still on the board at this point should be noted. Jones, Woods, Smith-Schuster, Kupp and Golladay were all drafted much higher in 2019, but injuries or inconsistent totals have hurt their appeal. All could be steals in the draft, but all come with risk. Aiyuk going this high could be seen as a surprise, especially since he went ahead of Golladay, Tyler Boyd and other "big-name" players. He did average 18.4 fantasy points in Weeks 7 to 17, ranking fourth among wideouts in that category. Jackson, who was the top quarterback in many 2019 drafts, went third at the position.

ROUND 6

  • 6.61. Roy Larking: Robert Tonyan, TE, Packers*
  • 6.62. Bill Enright: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Browns
  • 6.63. Ben Heisler: Melvin Gordon, RB, Broncos
  • 6.64. Ian Ritchie: Justin Herbert, QB, Chargers
  • 6.65. Scott Atkins: Marquise Brown, WR, Ravens
  • 6.66. Shawn Childs: George Kittle, TE, 49ers
  • 6.67. Casey Olson: Robby Anderson, WR, Panthers
  • 6.68. Matthew De Lima: D.J. Moore, WR, Panthers
  • 6.69. Steve Renner: Deshaun Watson, QB, Texans
  • 6.70. Corey Parson: Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks
  • 6.71. Frankie Taddeo: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
  • 6.72. Michael Fabiano: Courtland Sutton, WR, Broncos

Notes: The shocker in this round is that Kittle fell this far down the line and was chosen behind Tonyan. Honestly, I have to chalk this up to either a mistake in the rankings or simply not realizing he was still on the board at the time. Regardless, Kittle is not going to fall this far in most drafts. Herbert, the rookie phenom, went as the fifth quarterback, ahead of Watson, Wilson and Rodgers, who were all selected later in the round. Former superstar Beckham was drafted as a No. 3 wideout for Heisler, and that’s what he is (at best) heading into 2021.

ROUND 7

  • 7.73. Michael Fabiano: Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys*
  • 7.74. Frankie Taddeo: Chase Claypool, WR, Steelers
  • 7.75. Corey Parson: Deebo Samuel, WR, 49ers
  • 7.76. Steve Renner: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
  • 7.77. Matthew De Lima: Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama
  • 7.78. Casey Olson: Marvin Jones, Jr., WR, Lions*
  • 7.79. Shawn Childs: Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
  • 7.80. Scott Atkins: Mark Andrews, TE, Ravens
  • 7.81. Ian Ritchie: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
  • 7.82. Ben Heisler: Laviska Shenault, WR, Jaguars
  • 7.83. Bill Enright: Raheem Mostert, RB, 49ers
  • 7.84. Roy Larking: Brandin Cooks, WR, Texans

Notes: This is the part of the draft when the rookies started to come flying off the board, led by Chase and Smith. Etienne and Harris followed quickly thereafter, and I'd guess both would be drafted much higher depending on where they might land in the actual NFL draft. For example, Etienne or Harris landing in Atlanta would push them into a potential top-30 selection. Prescott's falling to Round 7 could be a steal, depending on his rehab from a gruesome leg injury, and Claypool could be a great bargain too, if Smith-Schuster leaves the Steelers.

ROUND 8

  • 8.85. Roy Larking: Devin Singletary, RB, Bills
  • 8.86. Bill Enright: Zack Moss, RB, Bills
  • 8.87. Ben Heisler: DeVante Parker, WR, Dolphins
  • 8.88. Ian Ritchie: Jeff Wilson, Jr., RB, 49ers*
  • 8.89. Scott Atkins: Antonio Brown, WR, Buccaneers*
  • 8.90. Shawn Childs: David Johnson, RB, Texans
  • 8.91. Casey Olson: J.D. McKissic, RB, Football Team
  • 8.92. Matthew De Lima: T.J. Hockenson, TE, Lions
  • 8.93. Steve Renner: Hunter Henry, TE, Chargers
  • 8.94. Corey Parson: Jamison Crowder, WR, Jets
  • 8.95. Frankie Taddeo: Damian Williams, RB, Chiefs
  • 8.96. Michael Fabiano: Javonte Williams, RB, North Carolina

Notes: The dart throws at running back were on full display in this round, as both Buffalo runners (Singletary, Moss), Wilson, David Johnson and the rookie Williams were selected. I'd also note that Hockenson and Henry, two valuable pieces at the tight end position, both came off the board in this round. Much like quarterbacks, you can wait on tight ends and still land a heck of a player.

ROUND 9

  • 9.97. Michael Fabiano: Noah Fant, TE, Broncos
  • 9.98. Frankie Taddeo: Nyheim Hines, RB, Colts
  • 9.99. Corey Parson: Damien Harris, RB, Patriots
  • 9.100. Steve Renner: Joshua Kelley, RB, Chargers
  • 9.101. Matthew De Lima: Leonard Fournette, RB, Buccaneers*
  • 9.102. Casey Olson: Mike Gesicki, TE, Dolphins
  • 9.103. Shawn Childs: Tony Pollard, RB, Cowboys
  • 9.104. Scott Atkins: D.J. Chark, WR, Jaguars
  • 9.105. Ian Ritchie: Jarvis Landry, WR, Browns
  • 9.106. Ben Heisler: A.J. Dillon, RB, Packers
  • 9.107. Bill Enright: Benny Snell Jr., RB, Steelers
  • 9.108. Roy Larking: Corey Davis, WR, Titans*

Notes: Valuable tight ends continued to come off the board in Round 9, as Fant and Gesicki were available. It's notable that Fournette, a pending free agent, went five full rounds after his current backfield mate, Ronald Jones. Productive wideouts like Chark, Landry and Davis were also still on the board. Dillon could end up being a sneaky value pick if Aaron Jones decides to leave Green Bay.

ROUND 10

  • 10.109. Roy Larking: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Broncos
  • 10.110. Bill Enright: Tom Brady, QB, Buccaneers
  • 10.111. Ben Heisler: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Titans
  • 10.112. Ian Ritchie: Logan Thomas, TE, Football Team
  • 10.113. Scott Atkins: Jalen Reagor, WR, Eagles
  • 10.114. Shawn Childs: Jalen Hurts, QB, Eagles
  • 10.115. Casey Olson: Todd Gurley, RB, Falcons*
  • 10.116. Matthew De Lima: Dallas Goedert, TE, Eagles
  • 10.117. Steve Renner: Michael Pittman Jr., WR, Colts
  • 10.118. Corey Parson: Evan Engram, TE, Giants
  • 10.119. Frankie Taddeo: Tarik Cohen, RB, Bears
  • 10.120. Michael Fabiano: Curtis Samuel, WR, Panthers*

Notes: Three potential top-10 fantasy quarterbacks, Brady, Tannehill and Hurts, were still available in the round. Once again, waiting on signal-callers makes a lot of sense in fantasy drafts. The fact that Hurts was selected, not Carson Wentz, suggests how the fantasy world would like to see the quarterback situation pan out in Philadelphia. Also of note, a trio of good young wideouts with upside like Jeudy, Reagor and Pittman were all still on the board in Round 10.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on Sports Illustrated and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram for all of the latest breaking fantasy football news and the best analysis in the business!

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