Publish date:

2021 Fantasy Football: 12-Team, 12-Round PPR Mock Draft - Running Backs Dominate Early Rounds

More than half of the picks in the opening three rounds were running backs and Michael Fabiano recaps this recent fantasy football mock draft and its implications

The Fourth of July holiday is in the rearview mirror, and the next holiday we'll have to celebrate is Labor Day. Do you know what that means? It's officially fantasy football draft season! That's right! It's time for fantasy fans to dig deeper into player rankings and NFL depth charts while also compiling all of those breakout, sleeper, and bust lists.

It's also time to start hitting the mock drafts hard and maybe even adding a few best-ball leagues to help with your strategies. We here at Sports Illustrated have been doing staff mock drafts all offseason, and we continue that here with our latest mock, including some of the best and brightest at SI, plus some of our friends from the fantasy industry.

This 12-round mock draft includes 12 teams and is based on a full PPR scoring system. Each team must start one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, one tight end, and a flex starter (RB/WR/TE). No kickers or D/STs were required.

Click to expand on draft board

Click to expand on draft board

ROUND 1

ezekiel-elliott-cowboys-playoffs

The draft started with nine running backs in the first 10 selections. I took Elliott at No. 3, not because I'm a Cowboys fan but because I firmly believe he'll rebound from a disappointing 2020 season that still saw him finish as the RB9. The biggest surprise was Ekeler, who went fifth overall and ahead of Henry and Barkley. Speaking of Barkley, he fell to Childs at No. 8. Maybe some folks have checked out my "Fantasy Case Against" article that features the Giants running back. Adams was the first wideout off the board, so Ritchie/Deming must feel fairly good about Aaron Rodgers remaining the Packers quarterback. Hill and Diggs were the second and third wideouts selected. The absence of Travis Kelce is a bit of a shock to me, as he's been a first-round selection in almost every single mock or best-ball draft I've been in this offseason.

ROUND 2

  • 2.13. Frankie Taddeo - DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Cardinals
  • 2.14. Jerry Bryant - Aaron Jones, RB, Packers
  • 2.15. Bill Enright - Cam Akers, RB, Rams
  • 2.16. Bob Harris - D.K. Metcalf, WR, Seahawks
  • 2.17. Shawn Childs - Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs
  • 2.18. Ian Ritchie/Mark Deming - Justin Jefferson, WR, Vikings
  • 2.19. Casey Olson - Darren Waller, TE, Raiders
  • 2.20. Billy Muzio - Antonio Gibson, RB, Football Team
  • 2.21. Matt De Lima - Calvin Ridley, WR, Falcons
  • 2.22. Michael Fabiano - Najee Harris, RB, Steelers
  • 2.23. Scott Atkins - Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals
  • 2.24. Roy Larking - A.J. Brown, WR, Titans

This round was equally split between the running backs and wide receivers, as five apiece were selected. The fantasy sharps continue to be high on Akers, who should be considered one of this season's top breakout candidates. Harris was the first rookie off the board, to the surprise of no one. Each time I've landed him as a No. 2 back in Round 2, it's felt like a win. Mixon has question marks but also possesses a clear path to touches. Kelce, the top fantasy tight end for five straight years, could be a steal for Childs. Managers should also take note that Waller went just two spots behind Kelce at the position. He's become the clear No. 2 fantasy tight end, ahead of George Kittle.

ROUND 3

  • 3.25. Roy Larking - Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs
  • 3.26. Scott Atkins - Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Chiefs
  • 3.27. Michael Fabiano - Michael Thomas, WR, Saints
  • 3.28. Matt De Lima - George Kittle, TE, 49ers
  • 3.29. Billy Muzio - Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers
  • 3.30. Casey Olson - CeeDee Lamb, WR, Cowboys
  • 3.31. Ian Ritchie/Mark Deming - Travis Etienne, RB, Jaguars
  • 3.32. Shawn Childs - D'Andre Swift, RB, Lions
  • 3.33. Bob Harris - Chris Carson, RB, Seahawks
  • 3.34. Bill Enright - Allen Robinson, WR, Bears
  • 3.35. Jerry Bryant - J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ravens
  • 3.36. Frankie Taddeo - Mike Davis, RB, Falcons
Patrick Mahomes plays in the 2020 AFC Championship

Mahomes was the first quarterback taken off the board, and this is the highest I've seen him picked in an analyst's mock. Kittle was the clear TE3 behind both Kelce and Waller. Thomas continues to feel like a bargain for me in the third round. Even in an offense without Drew Brees, he should be a target machine in New Orleans. Lamb went to Olson ahead of Cooper. I'm guessing that could be the norm as we get deeper into the summer months. Etienne has been more of a fourth or fifth-round pick in previous mocks, but Ritchie/Deming grabbed him in the middle of Round 3 ahead of other backs like Swift, Carson, and Dobbins. Davis, who has a clear path to touches, also went here. He did finish as the RB12 in 2020, and that was with CMC starting three contests.

ROUND 4

  • 4.37. Frankie Taddeo - Kareem Hunt, RB, Browns
  • 4.38. Jerry Bryant - Terry McLaurin, WR, Football Team
  • 4.39. Bill Enright - Julio Jones, WR, Titans
  • 4.40. Bob Harris - Mark Andrews, TE, Ravens
  • 4.41. Shawn Childs - David Montgomery, RB, Bears
  • 4.42. Ian Ritchie/Mark Deming - Miles Sanders, RB, Eagles
  • 4.43. Casey Olson - Josh Jacobs, RB, Raiders
  • 4.44. Billy Muzio - D.J. Moore, WR, Panthers
  • 4.45. Matt De Lima - Amari Cooper, WR, Cowboys
  • 4.46. Michael Fabiano - Robert Woods, WR, Rams
  • 4.47. Scott Atkins - Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers
  • 4.48. Roy Larking - Kenny Golladay, WR, Giants

This was a wide receiver heavy round as seven came off the board. McLaurin could be a steal, as he's been picked in Round 3 in previous mocks. Jones, now with the Titans, has become a fourth-round selection across the board. His teammate, A.J. Brown went at the end of Round 2. Running backs with question marks but who are considered RB2 options like Montgomery, Sanders and Jones also came off the board. Andrews, the consensus TE4 in most mocks, went behind Kelce, Waller, and Kittle.

ROUND 5

  • 5.49. Roy Larking - Diontae Johnson, WR, Steelers
  • 5.50. Scott Atkins - Kyle Pitts, TE, Falcons
  • 5.51. Michael Fabiano - Myles Gaskin, RB, Dolphins
  • 5.52. Matt De Lima - Chris Godwin, WR, Buccaneers
  • 5.53. Billy Muzio - T.J. Hockenson, TE, Lions
  • 5.54. Casey Olson - Tyler Lockett, WR, Seahawks
  • 5.55. Ian Ritchie/Mark Deming - Tee Higgins, WR, Bengals
  • 5.56. Shawn Childs - JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers
  • 5.57. Bob Harris - Brandon Aiyuk, WR, 49ers
  • 5.58. Bill Enright - Cooper Kupp, WR, Rams
  • 5.59. Jerry Bryant - Adam Thielen, WR, Vikings
  • 5.60. Frankie Taddeo - D.J. Chark, WR, Jaguars

This was another round dominated by wideouts, as nine came off the board. If you learn anything from this mock draft, learn that you can wait for a round or two and still land a solid group of receivers. In fact, six of them averaged at least 14.6 fantasy points a game last season. The others, Higgins, Kupp, and Thielen, have a legitimate chance to be in that range this season. Pitts and Hockenson, who are close in value, were also both fifth-rounders. Rookie tight ends typically don't do well in the stats sheets, but Pitts could be the exception to the rule. The trade of Jones opens up plenty of opportunities.

ROUND 6

  • 6.61. Frankie Taddeo - Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Browns
  • 6.62. Jerry Bryant - Chase Claypool, WR, Steelers
  • 6.63. Bill Enright - James Robinson, RB, Jaguars
  • 6.64. Bob Harris - Courtland Sutton, WR, Broncos
  • 6.65. Shawn Childs - Ja'Marr Chase, WR, Bengals
  • 6.66. Ian Ritchie/Mark Deming - Josh Allen, QB, Bills
  • 6.67. Casey Olson - Brandin Cooks, WR, Texans
  • 6.68. Billy Muzio - Chase Edmonds, RB, Cardinals
  • 6.69. Matt De Lima - Raheem Mostert, RB, 49ers
  • 6.70. Michael Fabiano - Robby Anderson, WR, Panthers
  • 6.71. Scott Atkins - Deebo Samuel, WR, 49ers
  • 6.72. Roy Larking - Will Fuller, WR, Dolphins

SI Recommends

Odell Beckham Thumb

The hits kept on coming at wide receiver, as another seven came off the board. OBJ led the position, and he'll serve as a No. 4 wideout for Taddeo. Chase was the first rookie wideout selected, and I love the value in Round 6. The Bengals will throw the ball a ton, and he has a great rapport with Joe Burrow during their time together at LSU. At running back, Robinson went almost three full rounds behind Etienne. That could be a steal for Harris, who loves going after the values in backfield competitions. Allen was the second quarterback selected, going around two and a half rounds behind Mahomes.

ROUND 7

  • 7.73. Roy Larking - Jerry Jeudy, WR, Broncos
  • 7.74. Scott Atkins - Kyler Murray, QB, Cardinals
  • 7.75. Michael Fabiano - Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys
  • 7.76. Matt De Lima - Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens
  • 7.77. Billy Muzio - Justin Herbert, QB, Chargers
  • 7.78. Casey Olson - Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks
  • 7.79. Ian Ritchie/Mark Deming - Javonte Williams, RB, Broncos
  • 7.80. Shawn Childs - Jarvis Landry, WR, Browns
  • 7.81. Bob Harris - Damien Harris, RB, Patriots
  • 7.82. Bill Enright - Matthew Stafford, QB, Rams
  • 7.83. Jerry Bryant - Trey Sermon, RB, 49ers
  • 7.84. Frankie Taddeo - Leonard Fournette, RB, Buccaneers

Larking started the round off with a surprise pick, grabbing Jeudy to be his WR5. After selecting McCaffrey with the first overall choice, he's now gone six straight rounds without taking another runner. The rest of the round was loaded with quarterbacks, as Murray, Prescott, Jackson, Herbert, Wilson, and Stafford were selected. This is likely the time when you'll see a run of signal-callers in most traditional re-drafts. At running back, Williams going this late was a surprise. I've seen him picked as high as the fifth round in previous mocks, and as you'll see, he went far ahead of teammate Melvin Gordon. The stock of Sermon is rising with Jeffery Wilson Jr., out of action, as he goes just one round behind the Niners' projected starter, Mostert. Sermon will serve as Bryant's third runner.

ROUND 8

  • 8.85. Frankie Taddeo - Devonta Smith, WR, Eagles
  • 8.86. Jerry Bryant - Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Jaguars
  • 8.87. Bill Enright - Antonio Brown, WR, Buccaneers
  • 8.88. Bob Harris - Ryan Tannehill, QB, Titans
  • 8.89. Shawn Childs - Curtis Samuel, WR, Football Team
  • 8.90. Ian Ritchie/Mark Deming - Tyler Boyd, WR, Bengals
  • 8.91. Casey Olson - Dallas Goedert, TE, Eagles
  • 8.92. Billy Muzio - Michael Carter, RB, Jets
  • 8.93. Matt De Lima - Melvin Gordon, RB, Broncos
  • 8.94. Michael Fabiano - Noah Fant, TE, Broncos
  • 8.95. Scott Atkins - Marquise Brown, WR, Ravens
  • 8.96. Roy Larking - Robert Tonyan, TE, Packers
ryan-tannehill-titans-broncos

Speaking of Gordon from the previous round, he fell to the eighth round. I don't think this will be typical in re-drafts, but it shows that the fantasy sharps like the rookie in Denver's backfield. Speaking of rookies, Carter going to Muzio as his No. 4 back could be a bargain. This round saw six wideouts selected overall, including reigning Heisman winner Smith. Bryant landed Shenault, a popular fantasy sleeper, as his No. 5 wideout. Brown, who averaged more than 14 fantasy points in eight games with the Buccaneers last season, continues to be a great value at this stage of drafts. For those fans who like to wait on tight ends, Goedert and Fant are still on the board in Round 8, proving that the strategy can be fruitful. Tonyan, last season's TE4, was also still available here.

ROUND 9

  • 9.97. Roy Larking - Ronald Jones, RB, Buccaneers
  • 9.98. Scott Atkins - Corey Davis, WR, Jets
  • 9.99. Michael Fabiano - James Conner, RB, Cardinals
  • 9.100. Matt De Lima - Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers
  • 9.101. Billy Muzio - Michael Gallup, WR, Cowboys
  • 9.102. Casey Olson - T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts
  • 9.103. Ian Ritchie/Mark Deming - Mike Williams, WR, Chargers
  • 9.104. Shawn Childs - Jaylen Waddle, WR, Dolphins
  • 9.105. Bob Harris - Michael Pittman Jr., WR, Colts
  • 9.106. Bill Enright - Zack Moss, RB, Bills
  • 9.107. Jerry Bryant - Tom Brady, QB, Buccaneers
  • 9.108. Frankie Taddeo - Jalen Hurts, QB, Eagles

This round started with Jones, who went more than a full round behind his Bucs teammate, Fournette. Tampa Bay will have a committee, but Jones was the better value in this mock. RoJo was one of just three backs picked in the round. Conner, who I took as my fourth running back, went more than two full rounds behind Edmonds. Who is the better value? You decide. The round also saw three quarterbacks selected, including two (Rodgers, Brady) top-eight QBs last season. The third, Hurts, put up an average of more than 20 points in his four starts as a rookie down the stretch. This proves the age-old adage remains true. Managers can (and should) wait at quarterback.

ROUND 10

  • 10.109. Frankie Taddeo - Logan Thomas, TE, Football Team
  • 10.110. Jerry Bryant - Tyler Higbee, TE, Rams
  • 10.111. Bill Enright - Cole Beasley, WR, Bills
  • 10.112. Bob Harris - Marvin Jones Jr., WR, Jaguars
  • 10.113. Shawn Childs - Joe Burrow, QB, Bengals
  • 10.114. Ian Ritchie/Mark Deming - Henry Ruggs III, WR, Raiders
  • 10.115. Casey Olson - Jamison Crowder, WR, Jets
  • 10.116. Billy Muzio - Russell Gage, WR, Falcons
  • 10.117. Matt De Lima - David Johnson, RB, Texans
  • 10.118. Michael Fabiano - DeVante Parker, WR, Dolphins
  • 10.119. Scott Atkins - Kenyan Drake, RB, Raiders
  • 10.120. Roy Larking - Nyheim Hines, RB, Colts

This round started with two potential values at tight end, Thomas and Higbee. The latter should see a rise in targets with Gerald Everett no longer in the mix. There were also some possible bargains at wide receiver with Jones, Ruggs, and Gage coming off the board. Burrow, the lone quarterback selected in the round, could also be a tremendous selection. This mock also saw Johnson, the projected lead back for the Texans, come off the board. This is the latest I've seen D.J. picked in mocks, and it further proves that this is a backfield you should avoid until the later rounds.

ROUND 11

  • 11.121. Roy Larking - Devin Singletary, RB, Bills
  • 11.122. Scott Atkins - Darnell Mooney, WR, Bears
  • 11.123. Michael Fabiano - Jamaal Williams, RB, Lions
  • 11.124. Matt De Lima - Tarik Cohen, RB, Bears
  • 11.125. Billy Muzio - Gabriel Davis, WR, Bills
  • 11.126. Casey Olson - Gus Edwards, RB, Ravens
  • 11.127. Ian Ritchie/Mark Deming - Tony Pollard, RB, Cowboys
  • 11.128. Shawn Childs - Alexander Mattison, RB, Vikings
  • 11.129. Bob Harris - Phillip Lindsay, RB, Texans
  • 11.130. Bill Enright - Mike Gesicki, TE, Dolphins
  • 11.131. Jerry Bryant - A.J. Dillon, RB, Packers
  • 11.132. Frankie Taddeo - Latavius Murray, RB, Saints

This round saw nine running backs come off the board as fantasy managers look to find a potential hidden gem who might be able to play a bigger-than-projected role. I like Williams, who Lions offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn called a "classic A back." Edwards, Lindsay, and Dillon are also interesting runner selections in the round.

ROUND 12

  • 12.133. Frankie Taddeo - J.D. McKissic, RB, Football Team
  • 12.134. Jerry Bryant - Cole Kmet, TE, Bears
  • 12.135. Bill Enright - Darrell Henderson, RB, Rams
  • 12.136. Bob Harris - John Brown, WR, Raiders
  • 12.137. Shawn Childs - Jakobi Meyers, WR, Patriots
  • 12.138. Ian Ritchie/Mark Deming - Hunter Henry, TE, Patriots
  • 12.139. Casey Olson - Wayne Gallman, RB, 49ers
  • 12.140. Billy Muzio - Mecole Hardman, WR, Chiefs
  • 12.141. Matt De Lima - Jalen Reagor, WR, Eagles
  • 12.142. Michael Fabiano - Sterling Shepard, WR, Giants
  • 12.143. Scott Atkins - Elijah Moore, WR, Jets
  • 12.144. Roy Larking - Irv Smith Jr., TE, Vikings

At this point in all drafts, you're taking shots on players with upside at the vital offensive skill positions. That was certainly the case with Kmet, Meyers, Hardman, Reagor, Moore, and Smith Jr., all of whom could play bigger roles for their respective teams. You also have to like the values with McKissic and Henry here. 


MORE ARTICLES FROM MICHAEL FABIANO

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. Click here to read all his articles here on SI Fantasy. You can follow Michael on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram for your late-breaking fantasy news and the best analysis in the business!