Fantasy Football Deep League Mock Draft: 14-Team PPR, Early Pick (2021)
Have you ever scoured the web desperate for advice on your upcoming fantasy football draft, only to find that the vast majority of the information out there didn’t apply to your league settings? Sometimes it feels like deep-league drafters get left out in the cold. Would it be nice to have a crack at drafting Michael Thomas in the mid-third or Travis Etienne in the eighth? Sure! But for deep-league players, those aren’t realistic scenarios for your draft day.
Using advice geared toward standard 12-person leagues to prepare for your 14-person draft makes for a tricky proposition. So let’s take the guesswork out of it and cater some recommendations specifically toward a deep-league draft. Over the next few weeks, I’ll have a mock draft simulation article detailing 14-team draft strategies from three different portions of the snake: Early, middle, and late in the first round.
For each of these articles, I’ll run my mock draft simulations using the FantasyPros Draft Wizard. You won’t find a tool more valuable in the industry than the FantasyPros Draft Wizard, which allows you to customize mock draft simulations based on your specific league settings.
For this mock draft exercise, I’ve chosen to draft against the Composite ADP and the Yahoo Pre-Draft Rankings, checking the corresponding boxes to allow the Draft Wizard to replicate a 14-team Yahoo draft as closely as possible. The settings will be:
- 14 Teams
- Full PPR
- 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 Flex (RB/WR/TE), & five bench slots
For this installment, I’ll be drafting from the 1.02 draft slot to represent what those drafters blessed with an ‘Early’ draft slot might see as the draft evolves.
(Note: We won’t include kickers or defenses for this mock; know that if your league uses them, consider waiting until your final two selections to pick up a K or D/ST. Some platforms, like Yahoo, don’t force you to draft a K or D/ST even if your league uses one. In that case, I recommend ignoring both positions in your draft. Instead, for extra depth in case of injuries before Week 1. This strategy rings especially true if your league uses IL slots. You can always pick up a K and D/ST Sunday morning of Week 1 if none of your players suffer a pre-season injury.)
1.02 – Dalvin Cook (RB – MIN)
It’s always fun to draft near the top of the first round–an adage that remains true regardless of league size. Sure, we might pay for our fortuitous draft position by missing out on some quality talent in the middle of the second round. But I don’t know many fantasy managers who would complain about the opportunity to kickstart their draft with Dalvin Cook.
The workhorse running back of the Minnesota Vikings is a centerpiece offensive force for his team. He contributes as the lead-dog in a capable rushing attack. He catches passes out of the backfield for those ever-valuable PPR nuggets. Barring injury, there’s just no way Dalvin Cook finishes outside the top handful of RB options in 2021.
Remember what we said about missing out on quality, mid-second talent after picking so early in the first? Well, it happened–welcome to deep leagues. Most of my favorite second-round WRs like DK Metcalf, Calvin Ridley, Justin Jefferson, and Terry McLaurin are off the board before we get our chance to pick again. That’s a tough sight, considering my personal penchant for drafting a WR-heavy roster in deep-league formats.
If we’re committed to the WR route in round two, Michael Thomas would still be a great pick at this spot. Looking at the board, though, I’m more comfortable with what happens if Thomas goes during the 2.14-3.01 turn than I am with delaying my selection of an RB2 until the third round only to find Clyde Edwards-Helaire snatched up before my next pick.
There’s a lot to like about CEH as he heads into his sophomore campaign as the undisputed lead back in the high-powered Kansas City offense. Though he never really lived up to his hype as a rookie last season, Edwards-Helaire possesses the ability to contribute on the ground and in the passing game. There have been some recent rumblings that Patrick Mahomes would like to involve him more in the Chiefs’ passing attack. If that happens, CEH’s stock is going to soar, making him a lovely post-hype candidate.
3.02 – Michael Thomas (WR – NO)
Wouldn’t you know it, Michael Thomas falls back to us after Team 14 took another RB and paired him with Darren Waller at the turn. We like CEH pretty handily above Swift–we’ll take the RB tied to an elite offense over the one involved with the Jared Goff-led unit in Detroit. Their move to take Swift at the turn validates our selection of Edwards-Helaire, and we still get to start our WR corps with one of the most prolific target monsters in the league. I love when a good plan comes together.
Sure, Thomas has question marks. He missed a large chunk of 2020 due to injury and then failed to find the end zone even once upon his return to the Saints lineup over the final six weeks of the regular season. His quarterback in 2021 will be either Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston–not Drew Brees–which is another cause for concern. But I refuse to believe that Thomas just up and forgot how to play wide receiver at an elite level.
In his age-28 season, the man who claimed overall fantasy WR1 status by nearly 100 PPR points in 2019 is going to prove that 2020 was an anomaly. The Saints offense is going to run through the duo of Thomas and Alvin Kamara. Thomas will see a hefty target share and will use the chip on his shoulder to the benefit of his fantasy managers this season.
4.13 – Tyler Lockett (WR – SEA)
I might be biased with this pick, as Tyler Lockett is one of my favorite players to watch in the NFL. With Lockett, you know you’ve got the chance for some legitimate boom weeks, as he displayed twice during the 2020 season with a pair of three-touchdown outings. When Russell Wilson decides early in a game to lock onto his reliable slot man, you can bet on a profitable day a Lockett fantasy manager.
The problem was his lack of consistency last season. As the Seahawks passing attack faded down the stretch in 2020, Lockett faded with it, rarely registering among the top WR options outside of his big-time boom games. I’m trusting the talent, though, over some notion that consistency is a metric that is very replicable from year to year. Lockett strikes me as exactly the kind of skill set that should be a plus in the consistency department; I think he gets back to that in 2021.
My first two selections being RBs put me in a position to continue to target WRs with this fourth-round pick. Aside from Lockett, I’ve got Kenny Golladay, Je’Marr Chase, and Brandon Aiyuk featured prominently on the draft board. I’m not too enthused by the concept of investing very heavily in the Daniel Jones-led Giants offense, which takes me out of consideration for Golladay. The others should be available to me in the fifth round. Lockett might not be, so I don’t hesitate to lock him up with this pick.
5.02 – Ja’Marr Chase (WR – CIN)
Remember, this is a full-PPR league where you have to start three wide receivers and a flex. In most draft situations, Travis Etienne is tantalizing for me in this spot, and it kills me that I can’t select him here given that the Draft Wizard gives it an 88% likelihood that he’ll be gone before my next pick. But I’m staring down the last of a WR tier that still includes Aiyuk and Chase. After that, my WR3 options begin to thin out. If I don’t go WR here, I’ve got coin-flip odds per the Draft Wizard that names like Deebo Samuel, DeVonta Smith, or Curtis Samuel will find their way to me in the sixth–far from a guarantee. That dubious prospect doesn’t enthuse me, so I commit to selecting either Aiyuk or Chase.
I love both players and have them back-to-back in my rankings. I notice that Aiyuk’s bye comes in Week 6, same as Michael Thomas, which nudges me in the direction of the rookie. I lock in my selection, and Aiyuk goes the very next pick, validating my consideration of the talented 49er.
6.13 – Jerry Jeudy (WR- DEN)
We got burned again by the lengthy layover between picks, as Deebo Samuel comes off the board at 6.10, then our guy Etienne goes one pick ahead of us at 6.12. Alas, we march on, undeterred. With two strong running backs and three stout wide receivers to our name, we aren’t beholden to any specific position with our upcoming picks.
Aaron Rodgers and Jalen Hurts are interesting if we want to get on the board with a QB. Dallas Goedert is the only TE even remotely on my radar at this stage in the draft, but it still feels too early to plant our flag on him. Jerry Jeudy stands out among the WRs. Though I can envision a weekly headache trying to determine whether to flex or bench the former Alabama standout, his upside is real because his talent is real, even in a Denver offense bogged down by questionable quarterback play.
Michael Gallup and Laviska Shenault Jr. are two WRs I’m targeting more heavily in drafts, but it feels a little early to select either of them with Jeudy still on the board. Though I intend to start tilting my attention back toward RBs soon, the lone team that picks before my next selection has just one WR on his roster. I’ll snag Jeudy before he does.
7.02 – Michael Carter (RB – NYJ)
Sure enough, Team 14 took consecutive WRs in Curtis Samuel and Jarvis Landry. It’s now or never for Gallup or Shenault if I decide to compensate for my early RB selections by solidifying my WR corps with a WR5.
The Draft Wizard anticipates a run on QBs before my next selection, with six more gunslingers projected to leave the board before I get another pick. I’m comfortable streaming QBs and TEs if it means stocking up on quality depth at RB and WR, though, so I’m going to take a chance and live with the consequences if none of them fall to me.
Let’s check in on the RBs. I like Ronald Jones and Michael Carter. According to the Draft Wizard, both backs have a 64% chance of being taken before my next pick. Because I’m supremely confident in the two RBs I already roster, I’m targeting upside with my bench bats. Though I think Jones overtakes Leonard Fournette to lead the Bucs backfield this season, it’s never fun to rely on Bruce Arians backfield split. I’ll take my shot on Carter, a rookie with a pass-catching pedigree that I love for PPR. Like D’Andre Swift and Cam Akers a year ago, Carter should get more involved in the offense as his rookie year progresses, making him an intriguing option for the fantasy playoffs–especially if Zach Wilson settles into the QB role efficiently.
8.13 – Nyheim Hines (RB – IND)
Naturally, the prophecied run on quarterbacks amounted to mere myth; Ryan Tannehill, Matthew Stafford, and Tom Brady have lasted deep into the eighth round. I’ve guy my eye on Tannehill, but the Pick Insights feature notifies me that nobody else needs a quarterback before my ninth-round pick. I can afford to wait on the position for another round.
My highest-rated WR at this juncture is another New York Jets rookie, Elijah Moore, but the Draft Wizard expects he’ll stick on the board a while longer. At this point in the draft, I train my attention upon handcuff running backs that I project to enjoy standalone productivity even without an injury ahead of them on the depth chart. Nyheim Hines, Tony Pollard, Gus Edwards, and Darrell Henderson all fit that billing. Since it’s PPR, I’m going Hines.
Though Jonathan Taylor could feature as a workhorse in this league, Frank Reich showed in 2020 that he prefers to cycle through his backfield options. Hines has always had the pass-catching pedigree, and he added ‘red-zone threat’ to his bag of tricks last season. He’s also our first player with a Week 14 bye; staggering bye weeks isn’t a primary strategy, but it’s comforting when things pan out that way this late in the draft.
9.02 – Ryan Tannehill (QB – TEN)
There will be drafts this year where I’ll wait until I fill my entire bench before selecting a QB. The margin between the middle of the pack and the streamers at the position is negligible. For me, Ryan Tannehill is going to be a rare exception to that rule.
After taking over as the Titans starter in Week 6 of the 2019 season, Tannehill was QB4 the rest of the way. Last season, he was QB7. Tannehill outscored Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert, and Tom Brady for fantasy in 2020. Then what happened this summer? He welcomed a future Hall of Fame receiver to his offense. With Julio Jones, A.J. Brown, and Derrick Henry among his weaponry for 2021, there’s no reason to project Tannehill as anything other than a top-eight fantasy quarterback with upside that could conceivably vault him into the top five. Yeah, we’ll take that in round nine.
10.13 – Rashod Bateman (WR – BAL)
No regrets about Tannehill, but what happened next definitely serves to illustrate the advantage you can gain by just completely ignoring the QB position in your drafts. Like, would anyone be surprised if Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, or Trey Lance emerge as top 12 options at the position by the second half of the season? Those guys are practically free in drafts, and I’ll probably have more than my fair share of them because of how much it pays to wait at QB. Since I tabbed Tannehill, I missed my chance to draft Pollard, Edwards, Henderson, or even Elijah Moore.
We’re scraping the bottom of the barrel at RB at this point. Phillip Lindsay and James White are the only names in which I have even marginal interest. Neither comes with the kind of upside that I like to chase late in drafts. So I use this as an opportunity to pivot back to WR, taking a shot on another talented rookie in Rashod Bateman.
We know the Baltimore offense leans heavily on the running game, but is it possible that personnel has been a factor preventing the Ravens from a more balanced approach? Bateman could help with that, presenting Lamar Jackson with a legitimate X-style receiver.
11.2 – Kenneth Gainwell (RB – PHI)
If non-rookies are eligible for selection in the late rounds of deep league fantasy drafts, it’s beginning to appear as though nobody told me about it. The name of the game remains upside. You don’t have to squint too hard to see how a player of Kenneth Gainwell’s skill set might have it in his first year with the Eagles.
Carson Wentz was pitiful last year, but Philly didn’t have much help for him. With Jalen Hurts slated to lead the offense in 2021, he’ll be eager to latch onto any playmaker who emerges. DeVonta Smith, Dallas Goedert, and Jalen Reagor are viable candidates. Miles Sanders could be a weapon if he can stay healthy. But there’s room for a utility knife like Gainwell to force the issue. Analysts touted Gainwell as one of the more capable receiving backs in the 2021 draft class. Though he opted out of the 2020 college season, Gainwell’s 51 receptions and three receiving touchdowns for the Memphis Tigers in 2019 illustrate the kind of weapon he can be in the passing game.
His fifth-round draft status could spell bench-warmer for re-draft purposes. At this stage in the draft, though, I like going with a guy whose role could be clarified following training camp. If he doesn’t turn out to be the steal I hoped, I can always cut him after Week 1 for a fresh name off the waiver wire.
12.13 – Jonnu Smith (TE – NE)
We had to draft a tight end eventually. We could do worse than one of the most athletic players at the position in all of football. Jonnu Smith is a better football player than Hunter Henry. The fellow TE joined the Patriots as part of their massive free-agency splurge over the offseason, but I peg Smith as the New England tight end to roster for fantasy purposes. The Pats made a concerted effort to land Smith early in the free-agency process.
Given how thin New England is in the way of established NFL receivers, it’s conceivable that Jonnu could finish among the leaders in targets on this roster. That’s an upside we can appreciate after essentially punting in the position in this draft.
13.02 – Rondale Moore (WR – ARZ)
Again? Darn right, I’m doing it again! The final rookie to join the squad is Rondale Moore, who honestly feels like more than a dart throw considering the quality of the offense and the potential for playing time he could receive within it.
My view on A.J. Green is that he’s cooked; Moore is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, an electrifying second-round pick anxious to prove himself at the professional level. Though Moore may not earn enough time on the field to justify a spot on my bench past the first few weeks of the fantasy season, there’s another world in which he emerges as the No. 3 passing option in a Kyler Murray-led offense. That’s the type of juice I’m looking for with my final pick of a deep league draft.
Draft Wizard Grade: 97 (A+)
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