Fantasy Football Mock Draft: 12-Team Hero-RB (2021)
Throughout this month, I explored various unique draft strategies that have been commonly discussed in the fantasy football community this offseason. Specifically, I’ve already examined the Zero-RB and Zero-WR strategies, where I used FantasyPros’ Mock Draft Simulator to quickly and efficiently test each approach. By using this tool, I was able to complete each mock draft within a few minutes, customizing it to my league settings and receiving automated feedback from experts based on how well I did.
In this final article of the three-part series, I’ll employ a “Hero-RB” strategy, which was coined after extensive debate about “how early is acceptable to draft an RB in a Zero-RB strategy.” In short, Hero-RB basically means you take an RB in Round 1, but then completely avoid it for the subsequent rounds until you fill most of your other starting positions (i.e., WR, TE, and maybe QB). It’s a bit more balanced of an approach than Zero-RB, generally providing your team with less risk and higher upside. Additionally, just as I’ve done in prior articles, I’ll be drafting from the same slot (i.e., eighth of 12 teams) in this mock. Regardless of how well this mock draft turns out, you should remember that it’s critical to anticipate your league mates moves (i.e., know their tendencies) so you can adapt when things don’t go as planned.
As alluded to previously, the primary aspect of this strategy is to take a “Hero RB” early; I’ll basically target an RB in Round 1 that will anchor that role so I can focus on constructing my team around the other necessary positions. Hopefully one of the premier RBs will fall to me at the 1.08, so I’ll feel more comfortable about my team before pivoting to WRs or TEs in Rounds 2 and 3.
The Mock Draft
12-Team, 0.5 PPR, Snake Format, 8th Position
Round 1.08 – Austin Ekeler (RB – LAC)
Unfortunately, there was a big run on RBs early in this mock draft, with the top seven consensus RBs being drafted before my pick. Normally, I would have liked to zag here by taking Travis Kelce (TE – KC) when the leagued zigged, which points to my prior point about being fluid and adaptable. However, to fully evaluate the Hero-RB strategy, I’ll draft my highest-rated RB remaining in 0.5 PPR leagues: Austin Ekeler. Ekeler is arguably the best receiving RB in the league and has been sensational in fantasy over the past couple of seasons when healthy.
Round 2.05 – Stefon Diggs (WR – BUF)
Unlike in Round 1, I was a bit lucky in Round 2, as a top WR fell to me at the 2.05 despite five WRs being drafted since I took Ekeler. I planned on taking Justin Jefferson (WR – MIN) with this pick, expecting Stefon Diggs to be drafted before me. However, Diggs falling made this pick an easy decision. If things went more as planned and I wasn’t employing a Hero-RB strategy, I would have loved to take Joe Mixon (RB – CIN) here to set up a wonderful foundation for my team.
Other Players Considered: Joe Mixon, Antonio Gibson (RB – WAS), Justin Jefferson
Round 3.08 – George Kittle (TE – SF)
Just like in Round 2, this was an easy pick. Even if I wasn’t going Hero-RB for this mock draft, I would have drafted George Kittle at the 3.08 considering the options presented to me. The only players I reasonably thought about here were Mike Evans (WR – TB) and Chris Carson (RB – SEA), but their value-added to my team would be negligible compared to Kittle’s.
Other Players Considered: Mike Evans, Chris Carson
Round 4.05 – Mike Evans (WR – TB)
After starting my draft in a diverse manner, selecting one RB, one WR, and one TE in the first three rounds, I now have a few options from which to choose. First, Chris Carson, who has finished as a mid-to-high-end RB2 in each of the last few seasons fell to me, as did Mike Evans, who’s been a WR17 or better every season since 2014, with 2015 as the lone exception where he only finished as the WR24. Given the circumstances, even if I wasn’t restricting myself to the Hero-RB strategy, Evans was the right choice here as he offers substantial stability at WR for my team while presenting elite upside if things work in his favor in 2021.
Round 5.08 – Kenny Golladay (WR – NYG)
This pick, in a Hero-RB strategy, came down to two options for me: Lamar Jackson (QB – BAL) or Kenny Golladay. In a 1QB league, I hardly ever select a QB in the earlier rounds, as there’s an abundance of quality fantasy QBs these days. However, I consider Jackson as a premier candidate to finish as THE QB1 this season, as he offers elite upside as a rusher that virtually no other player can match. Alternatively, Golladay is just two years removed from finishing as the WR6 in fantasy, so despite an underwhelming 2020 campaign, he would be a great piece to add as my WR3. Despite early health concerns with Golladay, I chose him and hoped that either Jackson or Kyler Murray (QB – ARI) fall to me in Round 6.
Round 6.05 – Jerry Jeudy (WR – DEN)
Unfortunately, neither Jackson nor Murray fell to me in the sixth, so I had to continue drafting WRs to fully exhibit the Hero-RB strategy. Generally, I would have considered drafting Mike Davis or Travis Etienne at the 5.08 before taking my WR3 here; however, I think going with Golladay previously and taking another WR here doesn’t feel too bad. I’m reached slightly for Jerry Jeudy, who is immensely talented and could surely have a sophomore breakout season with Denver this season. There was a reason Denver drafted him at 15 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, despite already having Courtland Sutton (WR – DEN) and Noah Fant (TE – DEN) as receivers. I’ll target my RB2 in the next round and then begin pursuing high-upside RB options to fill out my bench.
Round 7.08 – Raheem Mostert (RB – SF)
Arguably the best remaining player on the board among those I considered in Round 6, Mostert was my choice at 7.08. Slightly torn between Mostert or Damien Harris (RB – NE), I ultimately went with the player who possesses league-winning upside. Although Harris may surely outperform Mostert, on average, in 2021, I don’t want the average when comparing similarly valued players. I want the ceiling and there’s no denying that Mostert presents a higher upside than Harris. I don’t care where my team finishes in fantasy football if it’s not first.
Other Players Considered: Damien Harris, James Robinson (RB – JAC)
Round 8.05 – Damien Harris (RB – NE)
Considering my thought process in Round 7, taking Harris here was a quick decision. He should serve well as my RB3, filling in nicely if Mostert doesn’t pan out. With my elite WR and TE corps, I’m going to continue targeting RBs that could present a nice return on investment. I hope to draft James Conner (RB – ARI) at 9.08.
Round 9.08 – David Johnson (RB – HOU)
Unfortunately, Conner didn’t fall to me at 9.08, but David Johnson was available. This was a value-based pick, as Johnson was the undisputed RB1 in Houston when he wasn’t injured, producing as a fringe-RB1 in fantasy, on average. Although there are rumors in the football community that Johnson may be a cut-candidate this offseason, I’m sticking with him with such a depressed ADP until those rumors are realized. The value of him remaining the RB1 for the team as it relates to my fantasy squad is worth the risk in my opinion of him getting cut and this pick going to waste. Furthermore, at this point in the draft, I’ll begin more seriously considering QBs in standard leagues, so I’ll look to take Tom Brady (QB – TB) or Matthew Stafford (QB – LAR) with my next pick.
Round 10.05 – AJ Dillon (RB – GB)
Upside. That’s what this pick was about. Despite a hole at QB for my team and me targeting RBs in each of my last three picks, I decided to take another RB here due to his league-winning potential. Currently slated as Aaron Jones’ (RB – GB) back-up, AJ Dillon could win fantasy leagues if something were to happen with Jones. Additionally, we’ve seen Green Bay utilize a split backfield for years now, so Dillon also has some standalone value. With both Brady and Stafford falling, I will continue punting on QB until I must take one.
Other Players Considered: Devin Singletary (RB – BUF), Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford
Round 11.08 – Devin Singletary (RB – BUF)
Both Brady and Stafford fell again to me at 11.08, so I continued bypassing them for more important fantasy positions. Specifically, I went with Devin Singletary, who’s set to split time with Zack Moss (RB – BUF) in Buffalo. Although many speculate Moss to be the lead back for Buffalo, fantasy managers are currently unsure how things will play out, so the uncertainty has depressed Singletary’s ADP. Singletary may outright take over the lead-back duties or if Moss goes down, he may present a massive return on investment considering his low ADP.
Other Players Considered: Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford, J.D. McKissic (RB – WAS)
Round 12.05 – Tom Brady (QB – TB)
After punting on QB for several rounds, I finally decided to cave and take Tom Brady at the 12.05. Considering the underwhelming options available at other positions, selecting Brady offered the greatest value. Depending on who’s remaining at my subsequent draft picks, I may end up taking another QB – one with higher upside than Brady – in the last round to complement Brady’s anticipated high floor.
Round 13.08 – Darrynton Evans (RB – TEN)
With my second-to-last pick in this Hero-RB mock draft, I opted to pick one final high-upside RB for my team: Darrynton Evans. Evans offers no standalone value, as he’s the back-up to back-to-back rushing champion, Derrick Henry (RB – TEN), but with all the options available at the 13.08, Evans presents the greatest league-winning upside if Henry were to go down with an injury. Furthermore, I would have no issues dropping Evans early in the season to pick up a premier waiver wire option.
Round 14.05 – Amon-Ra St. Brown (WR – DET)
As a complete lottery pick, Amon-Ra St. Brown is quickly becoming one of my favorite late-round targets this season. He most likely won’t cost anything in your drafts, and honestly probably won’t do much his rookie season, but we’ve seen rookie WRs perform better in recent years when given the opportunity (e.g., Terry McLaurin (WR – WAS), D.K. Metcalf (WR – SEA), A.J. Brown (WR – TEN), Justin Jefferson, etc.). With Detroit’s top two WRs from 2020 (i.e., Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. (WR – JAC)) no longer competing for targets, there’s a great opportunity for St. Brown to see action in 2021. Although T.J. Hockenson (TE – DET) and D’Andre Swift (RB – DET) should be the primary targets ahead of St. Brown early in the season, he can carve out a niche for himself as the season progresses.
I was given the best draft grade (A – 93/100) for this team among my three unique draft strategies this month. I completely agree with the score, as this team looks a lot more balanced than the prior two and simply reflects that many times the best strategy for fantasy football is to target balance. However, according to the Mock Draft Simulator’s pick analysis function, I could have further improved my team by taking Atlanta RB Mike Davis at the 5.08 instead of Golladay or opting for Denver RB Javonte Williams in lieu of Jerry Jeudy. Ultimately, I would have preferred going with Kelce first at the 1.08 considering the early RB run with the first seven picks before targeting premier RBs over the next few rounds, but given my intended strategy, I’m happy with how my team turned out.
Whether you’re new to fantasy football or a seasoned pro, our Fantasy Football 101: Strategy Tips & Advice page is for you. You can get started with Starting Your Own Fantasy Football League or head to a more advanced strategy – like What is the Right Amount of Risk to Absorb on Draft Day? – to learn more.