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Early 2021 Fantasy Football Mock Draft: Half-PPR

by Matt Barbato | @realmattbarbato | Featured Writer
Feb 19, 2021

Ezekiel Elliott is still a bell-cow running back in what could be a great offense.

The first full week without football is always challenging. So I’m coping with no football by getting an early head start on the 2021 fantasy football season.

To do that, I went to our good ole Draft Wizard and conducted a mock draft in a 12-team, half-point PPR league. I was randomly assigned the 12th and final pick. And I’ll be honest, No. 12 is definitely not my favorite place to draft.

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1.12: Ezekiel Elliott (RB – DAL)
It’s only February, but I’m getting the feeling that picking 12th isn’t the ideal spot. Most years, I’d be thrilled and stunned to get Elliott at the end of Round 1. Entering 2021, I’m pretty terrified.

Elliott was arguably the biggest bust of 2020. But it’s hard to think he suddenly fell off a cliff at just 25 years old. The Cowboys were a flat out disaster after Dak Prescott suffered a season-ending injury. Dallas’ offensive line also took an unexpected step back last season.

We don’t know if Prescott will be back in Dallas, and we don’t know if Zeke’s disappointing season was a sign of things to come. But as things stand today, Elliott is still a bell-cow running back in what could be a great offense. If he returns to form, this would be an enormous steal, even in Round 1.

2.1: Josh Jacobs (RB – LV)
I typically preach roster balance, but with such a long layoff between picks, I felt it was more important to grab two top tailbacks. Jacobs finished as the RB8 in half-PPR leagues last season, and I still feel he’s only scratching the surface.

What Jacobs needs is the threat of a legitimate quarterback, not the occasionally decent but typically mediocre Derek Carr. Jacobs has an extremely high ceiling if the offense takes another step forward. Aaron Jones was still on the board, but I suspect he’s played his last snap in Green Bay. His uncertainty as a free agent made the difference.

3.12: Mike Evans (WR- TB)
Did you know Mike Evans finished as the WR10 in half-PPR last season? I didn’t. And I was admittedly surprised to see him that high on the list. That’s because having Mike Evans on your fantasy team is like driving on a hole littered with potholes. He’ll get you where you need to go, but the ride is rarely pretty.

Evans finished the year with 70 receptions, 1,006 yards, and 13 touchdowns. However, mixed in with that were six games with fewer than 10 fantasy points. Evans is always a red zone threat, but some regression could come in the touchdown department.

Tom Brady is coming back, and that’s certainly great news. Plus, Chris Godwin could leave Tampa Bay in free agency. Evans will probably be a top 12-15 wideout again in 2021, but that doesn’t mean you won’t hit a few potholes along the way.

4.1: Terry McLaurin (WR – WSH)
I hyped up McLaurin all last season and wound up never getting him in almost all of my leagues. In his second season, McLaurin finished 21st among receivers with 84 receptions, 1,118 yards, and four touchdowns.

Even more impressive is McLaurin accomplished this despite having Dwayne Haskins, Alex Smith, Kyle Allen, and Taylor Heinecke at quarterback.

The Football Team would be crazy not to upgrade at quarterback this offseason, which will only help McLaurin. He also could see an uptick in touchdowns if Washington’s offense becomes more potent. I love getting McLaurin as my WR2 and expect him to finish close to WR1 territory in 2021.

5.12: Cooper Kupp (WR – LAR)
I’ve always been a big fan of Cooper Kupp. 2020 wasn’t his finest season, as he finished as the WR27 and scored only three touchdowns. Los Angeles’ passing game should improve after the Rams swapped Jared Goff with Matthew Stafford.

However, it’s fair to wonder if Goff’s absence actually hurts Kupp, as the two had a strong rapport. Will Kupp establish the same chemistry with Stafford? I’m willing to take a shot on him at the end of Round 5 and find out.

6.1 Melvin Gordon III (RB – DEN)
Gordon quietly finished RB13 in 2020. I bet that caught you by surprise. I’m thrilled to get Gordon as my RB3. By Round 6, it’s hard to find running backs with well-defined workloads. For example, the other tailbacks still on the board were David Johnson, Ronald Jones, Raheem Mostert, and James Conner. There are big questions about all of those guys, from workload to durability.

Does Gordon have a really high ceiling? No. But he’s a steady RB2 who could see even more work if Phillip Lindsay isn’t brought back as a restricted free agent. But even with Lindsay on the roster, Gordon should still see around 250 total touches.

Check out all of our 2021 NFL Draft coverage >>

7.12: AJ Dillon (RB – GB)
I’ve got three established running backs; now it’s time for some upside. I passed up on Mostert and Conner to grab Dillon, who could see a featured role in Green Bay with Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams set to hit the open market this offseason.

Dillon is purely a power back who will primarily see the field on early downs. He played sparingly during his rookie season, but he showed what he’s capable of in Week 16 against Tennessee. Dillon rushed for 124 yards, and two scores in a dominant Packers win.

In late Round 7, Dillon’s worth a flyer.

8.1: Tom Brady (QB – TB)
Quarterbacks are flying off the board, so I feel obliged to get one before my options really get ugly. Brady proved that he’s far from finished in the NFL, finishing as the QB8 at age 43. I’ll take a stab at Father Time waiting another year to strike. Plus, having Brady and Evans should be a potent combination.

9.12: Dallas Goedert (TE – PHI)
I’m thrilled to get Goedert, who should finally get the target share he deserves. Zach Ertz’s time in Philadelphia appears to be over. That means Goedert’s talent will begin to shine, and I’m buying low on a player I think has top-five potential at the position.

My starting lineup is complete.

10.1 Jamison Crowder (WR – NYJ)
Yes, taking Jets is never fun. But even with Adam Gase as his head coach, Crowder still offered a nice floor for fantasy owners. The slot receiver should benefit from a competent coaching staff and a potential upgrade at quarterback from Sam Darnold. Even if Darnold stays in the Big Apple, the two have a strong rapport.

11.12: Matthew Stafford (QB – LAR)
We’ll see how good Stafford really is this season, as he finally gets out of Detroit and goes to a real organization. Sean McVay should be able to get the most out of Stafford. Stacking him with Kupp is also a plus.

Even though I waited to take a quarterback, I feel pretty comfortable with Stafford and Brady as my duo.

12.1: Darius Slayton (WR – NYG)
The options are getting really ugly, but Slayton offers some upside as a big-play threat. He went from eight touchdowns in 2019 to just three in 2020. I suspect he’ll land somewhere in between in 2021.

13.12: Henry Ruggs III (WR – LV)
Ruggs’ rookie season was a bit of a disappointment. He caught just 26 passes but showed flashes of brilliance. Ruggs really needs a quarterback who will consistently push the ball downfield to him. And that’s just not Derek Carr’s nature anymore. I’ll take a shot on Ruggs breaking more plays in his sophomore season with my second-to-last pick.

14.1: Gus Edwards (RB – BAL)
Ending this draft with Gus Edwards certainly isn’t sexy. J.K. Dobbins should be the lead back in Baltimore, but the Ravens use multiple backs. Edwards is always a threat to crack the end zone, and he’s an instant starter should Dobbins get hurt.

Draft Wizard Final Grade: 86/100

The Draft Wizard gave me a B, and I’ll take it. This team has enough floor to win weekly. However, I’m going to need guys like Dillon, Goedert, Slayton, and Ruggs to pop. Looking back, I probably could’ve afforded some higher upside players.

It’s not the favorite team I’ve ever drafted, but it’s one that should contend for a playoff spot. And that’s all you can ask for in February.

Can you draft the perfect 2020 team? Try our Perfect Draft Game >>

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Matt Barbato is a featured writer for FantasyPros. For more from Matt, check out his archive and follow him @RealMattBarbato

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