I wrote a few mock draft articles last year in preparation for the 2020 NFL season, and my perspective on mock drafting holds true. Understanding various options presented to you and the potential pivots you’ll need to make is critical. By the time of your official drafts, you should have a good idea of how each early-to-mid-round selection may impact your team as a whole, focusing on TE early or going zero-RB. With greater experience and anticipation of what may occur following each of your picks, you’ll be able to identify a primary strategy and adapt accordingly when your competitors formulate varying strategies that may throw a wrench in your plans. Constructing your route before the draft and any potential obstacles you may face during the draft will set you up for success in the 2021 fantasy football season.
FantasyPros’ Mock Draft Simulator allows you to efficiently test different strategies and understand various rankings and average draft positions (ADPs). Perhaps you had a middle-round draft slot, and you’re unsure how to build the foundation of your team (e.g., selecting a top WR or TE versus drafting a mid-RB1, assuming RBs go early again this upcoming season). The simulator enables you to test these various strategies in preparation for your draft to more effectively construct your team as you ideally desire.
In this mock draft walkthrough, I focused on a late-round pick in a 12-team standard (i.e., zero PPR) league.
RBs (and players that score touchdowns more prevalently) are more valuable in a zero PPR league. With the updated Mock Draft Simulator, you can set your desired positional values to reflect how you anticipate your league drafting, so I’ll set mine to focus a bit less on WRs. With a late-round draft slot in a zero PPR league, I would expect to grab a premier WR (e.g., Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill) with my first pick and hope to get a second-tier RB (e.g., Aaron Jones, Ezekiel Elliott, or Cam Akers), with my next pick. However, if a premier RB (e.g., Alvin Kamara, Nick Chubb, Jonathan Taylor) were to fall to me at the end of round one, I would pivot and potentially go RB-RB or RB-TE to start my draft and attack WR later.
The Mock Draft
12-Team, Zero PPR, Snake Format, 9th Position
Round 1.09 – Davante Adams (WR – GB)
Although I didn’t expect to have the presumed top WR, Davante Adams, fall to me at 1.09, the odds were in my favor. There was an early run on RBs for the first seven picks of the draft, followed by “Pump The Drakes” selecting Tyreek Hill as the first WR off the board. Although Adams would have been my – and most other fantasy managers in redraft leagues – choice as the WR1, I can’t fault someone for taking the explosive Hill first. In all, I’m glad that I was able to take my WR1 with the ninth pick of the draft, as he offers elite scoring upside in an offense that focuses on him in all parts of the field. I considered taking Aaron Jones or Ezekiel Elliott with this pick, but Adams’ consistency and elite upside swayed my decision. I hope it doesn’t come to bite me later in the draft.
Other Players Considered: Aaron Jones, Ezekiel Elliott
Round 2.04 – Travis Kelce (TE – KC)
Following my decision to take the top WR with my first pick, I risked not taking an elite RB with my next selection – the fourth pick of the second round – if there was another run on RBs. And that’s what happened. The aforementioned Jones and Elliott were selected, along with young potential studs Cam Akers, Josh Jacobs, and Antonio Gibson. As such, my second-round pick was easy: Travis Kelce. I’ll take the top TE in the game, a true game-breaker at his position that we haven’t seen in fantasy since prime Rob Gronkowski. If Jones, Akers, or Elliott were to fall to me, I probably would have taken one of them over Kelce, but I had no second thoughts about my selection with all of them being taken before my pick. It looks like I may be going zero-RB.
Other Players Considered: N/A
Round 3.09 – Julio Jones (WR – ATL)
With my first two picks being the preseason WR1 and TE1, respectively, I was eager to draft an RB in the third round, though I’m the drafter who likes to draft for value early and then fill in my team later on with high-upside or need picks. Unfortunately, six more RBs were selected between my picks (i.e., Austin Ekeler, Miles Sanders, Joe Mixon, Najee Harris, J.K. Dobbins, and D’Andre Swift), so I was facing a tough predicament: potentially reach on an RB to be my RB1 or continue drafting for value and wait for mid-to-late-round RBs to fall to me as other managers reach on players to round out their lineups. With the three teams picking next all focusing heavily on RBs in the first two rounds, I opted to take the top WR remaining on the board: Julio Jones. If this were a PPR league, I might have gone Michael Thomas for the sheer volume he commands, but I think Jones is the best WR in the game when healthy and sets my team up for success as the WR2 to Adams.
Round 4.04 – James Robinson (RB – JAC)
My gamble paid off. The top RB on the board at the time of my third-round pick remained undrafted for my next pick. I knew I would be drafting an RB with this pick, so I quickly reviewed the other RBs on the board but ultimately went with anticipated workhorse and 2020 undrafted rookie fan favorite, James Robinson. I really like my team and hope to continue drafting WRs at a value or filling up on high-upside RBs in the middle rounds.
Other Players Considered: David Montgomery, Clyde Edwards-Helaire
Round 5.09 – CeeDee Lamb (WR – DAL)
At this point in my draft, I believe my team is incredibly balanced. I have two stud, high-upside WRs (still need one more to round out my starting WR corps), the undeniable TE1 and potential fantasy MVP candidate, and a bell-cow RB1 who may not present top-end RB1 upside but should be an RB2, at worst, in an improved offense in 2021. After several notable WRs and RBs, along with a couple of QBs, were selected before this pick, I opted to take the best player on the board: CeeDee Lamb. I considered drafting Kareem Hunt here, as he presents a low-RB2 floor with RB1 upside in a rushing-centric offense but ultimately went with the young WR who may challenge Justin Jefferson as the next best WR in the game. Hopefully, Hunt will fall to me in the sixth.
Other Players Considered: Kareem Hunt, Tee Higgins
Round 6.04 – Ronald Jones II (RB – TB)
With my starting WR corps now completed and a few more RBs selected between my picks, I could either fill out my starting flex spot or round out my team with an RB. My anticipated competitive advantage at WRs and TE persuaded me to go for an RB with this pick, so I decided between Ronald Jones II, Raheem Mostert, and David Johnson. With Mostert’s injury history and the potential of a sputtering Houston offense without star QB Deshaun Watson, in addition to Johnson’s heightened risk of being an older RB, I went with Jones II. I assume he won’t be a bell-cow back, but I don’t anticipate TB re-signing Leonard Fournette and don’t feel particularly threatened by Gio Bernard to supplant Jones II as the primary rusher in this premier offense. This choice was rather easy.
Other Players Considered: Raheem Mostert, David Johnson
Round 7.09 – Chase Edmonds (RB – ARI)
By the seventh round of your drafts, you should have an idea of your team’s strengths and weaknesses, so it’s all about attacking those potential holes or growing advantages on your opponents. Currently, I love my WRs and TE, but I know I have some work to do at RB. As such, I want to either take the best RB available unless an elite, upside WR (e.g., Chase Claypool) were to fall to me. Claypool was selected, so I targeted the RB position again with this pick. After the recent signing of James Conner, I believe Edmonds will offer flex value at worst in this high-tempo Cardinals offense, with the potential of returning RB2 value if he wins the starting job outright in training camp or if Conner is again plagued by the injury bug. I briefly contemplated Brandin Cooks and Jerry Jeudy here, but considering my WRs already, I would be okay with missing out on both of these guys but wouldn’t be shocked if one of them fell to me in the eighth. Tyler Boyd would be appealing in PPR leagues, but I don’t think he offers the upside in zero PPR ones with the rise of Higgins as the WR1 for the team.
Other Players Considered: Brandin Cooks, Jerry Jeudy
Round 8.04 – Jerry Jeudy (WR – DEN)
My gamble paid off again, as JuJu Smith-Schuster was the lone WR taken in the next six picks before my eighth-round selection. With both Cooks and Jeudy staring at me and considering my stability at WR already, I opted for the highly touted sophomore Jeudy. I think he offers way more upside than Cooks, and I’m willing to eat the risk that he underperforms considering my team construction to this point. If I were a bit weaker at WR, I probably would have preferred the stability of Cooks as the undeniable WR1 for Houston.
Other Players Considered: Brandin Cooks
Round 9.09 – Jeff Wilson Jr. (RB – SF)
With my starting lineup sans QB complete and having a high-upside WR in Jeudy as my WR4/flex, I considered QBs with this pick. In 1QB leagues, I always advise waiting on QBs as much as you can, as there’s an abundance of quality starting fantasy QBs, all of whom present THE QB1 upside (few people had Josh Allen and Aaron Rodgers finishing among the top QBs last year, and let’s not forget Dak Prescott’s insane production before his gruesome ankle injury). As I anticipated, there were two young stud QBs on the board, staring right at me: reigning rookie of the year, Justin Herbert, and dual-threat monster, Jalen Hurts. However, two of the three teams behind me already selected QBs, so I knew that one of Herbert or Hurts would reasonably be available for me with my next pick (this is where knowing your league matters, and if your league mates make crazy moves like selecting two QBs early, then be prepared).
As such, I turned my eyes to RB again. At this point in drafts, you probably won’t find any starting RBs available, so you can either take 1) clear handcuffs with upside if the starter were to go down or 2) RBs in opaque backfields that may win the job in training camp, be the clear backup, or split time throughout the season. My strategy is to go for the latter, as you’ll know early on if you can cut bait and use your bench spots for premier waiver wire pick-ups instead of holding onto that injury-dependent RB all season. I went with Jeff Wilson, Jr.
Round 10.04 – Justin Herbert (QB – LAC)
I made my prior pick with the expectation that either Herbert or Hurts would be drafted; however, neither was. So, I implemented a similar strategy and looked at the teams between my current pick and my next one. All but one had already selected a QB, so there’s a good chance that either Herbert or Hurts would fall to me in the 11th round. To help sway my decision, I utilized the Mock Draft Simulator’s Predictor function, which showed that Herbert had a 99% chance of being drafted before my next pick, but Hurts was at just 47%. Furthermore, Ryan Tannehill, Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford, and Matt Ryan were all still on the board, so I considered forgoing the QB position again. However, I ultimately went with the best QB on the board, Justin Herbert, as the other options at other positions simply didn’t offer the same upside for my team specifically.
Other Players Considered: Jalen Hurts, Laviska Shenault, J.D. McKissic, Tarik Cohen
Round 11.09- Jalen Hurts (QB – PHI)
My gamble didn’t truly pay off this time, as Hurts made it back to me in the 11th. If I had known he would have been here in the 11th, I might have selected Shenault with my 10th pick. However, none of Shenault, McKissic, or Cohen were drafted, too, which presents me with the same conundrum I faced with my last pick. Based on my current roster, being stacked at WR, and having multiple high-upside RBs, I considered doing something I rarely do: take a second QB (especially before the last round). I think Hurts offers legit THE QB1 upside with his rushing ability, and there is a very low chance that Shenault ever starts for my team barring a flex, so I went with what improved my team’s chances of winning the championship the most: filling a potential QB hole with a potential league-winner.
Other Players Considered: Laviska Shenault, J.D. McKissic, Tarik Cohen
Round 12.04 – J.D. McKissic (RB – WFT)
With Shenault being drafted, this next pick wasn’t tough. I knew I was going RB but just had to choose between Cohen and McKissic. Both are basically the same player. A smaller RB who is almost exclusively utilized as a receiver out of the backfield with minimal touchdown upside. I simply chose the player on the more exciting offense and who isn’t coming off of a torn ACL. Depending on how the NFL Draft turns out, I might have chosen a rookie RB in a muddied backfield (e.g., Michael Carter or Chuba Hubbard).
Other Players Considered: Tarik Cohen, Michael Carter, Chuba Hubbard
Round 13.09 – Michael Pittman Jr. (WR – IND)
Going into the last two rounds of my draft, I know that neither of these players are likely to remain on my roster past Weeks 1 or 2. As such, I’m just looking at pure upside players who may take charge of their depth chart in training camp or Week 1. Having four very solid WRs to this point and five RBs, I wanted to get one of each of these positions to cap off my draft. I was hoping Anthony McFarland, a fellow Terp, would fall to me here, but I’m not surprised that he was taken. He would have fit the bill if he were the featured RB in the Steelers’ backfield. Nonetheless, I went with the highest upside player this round and hoped the other players considered would be there in the 14th.
Round 14.04 – La’Mical Perine (RB – NYJ)
All three RBs whom I considered in the previous round remained here, so I chose the one who is not past his prime (i.e., Ingram II) and will be someone that I’d immediately know if I can cut bait by the end of training camp or Week 1. Kelly had some high-touch, low production games early last year for the Chargers but ultimately fizzled out in place of Justin Jackson. I’m simply splitting hairs at this point, and Perine and Kelly are basically the same.
Other Players Considered: Mark Ingram II, Joshua Kelly
I was a bit disappointed with only a B+ draft grade (87/100), as I anticipated having the clear-cut best team in the league. However, I didn’t pay super close attention to my competitors’ completed teams, so perhaps some of them lucked out with some great drafts, too. As usual, the Mock Draft Simulator saw my team as below average from a starters point-of-view (remember, RBs are king in fantasy, especially zero PPR), but I more than made up for it with my immense depth, ranking second across the entire draft. Overall, I’m quite happy with my team and believe it would challenge for the championship this season. If this were any form of PPR, I would consider my team the predominant favorite.
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you navigate your season. From our Start/Sit Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup, based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant – which allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team and by how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.