The Perfect 2021 Fantasy Football Draft
Golfers are familiar with the concept of a “mulligan” – a do-over. You might slice a drive into the trees, but if you’re in a friendly foursome and it’s a casual round, perhaps you’ll be told to tee up another ball without penalty.
If only we could get mulligans on some of the errant picks from our fantasy drafts.
Some fantasy managers expected a big bounce-back season from Saquon Barkley. Some thought Darren Waller and Clyde Edwards-Helaire were good second-round values. Some had Robert Woods ranked as the Rams’ top receiver ahead of Cooper Kupp.
What if we could go back in time and draft again while holding the answer key in our hands? Knowing how things turned out in the 2021 regular season, and knowing what every player’s average draft position was when we were drafting our teams late last summer, we can construct a superteam that would have conquered the world.
In fact, we at FantasyPros are giving you the chance to do exactly that – execute the perfect draft. You can go here to take the FantasyPros Perfect Draft Challenge. You’ll draft against 11 simulated opponents and try to put together the best team possible. You can draft as many times as you’d like, and you have a chance to win prizes. Sign-up for an account at PrizePicks.com using your FantasyPros.com e-mail address. When the contest ends on January 27th, the top 500 eligible entries will receive prizes courtesy of PrizePicks, with a grand prize of $1,000 in PrizePicks credits.
For my attempt at executing a perfect draft, I’ll be using the consensus preseason ADP for half-PPR across multiple websites. I gave myself a draft slot in the middle of the first round of a snake draft: pick 1.06. I was trying to get the best possible values while also selecting players as close to their ADPs as possible.
The lineup requirements for this challenge: one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, one tight end, one flex (W/R/T), and one defense.
Funny thing is, if any of us would have drafted this team in August or early September, our leaguemates would have heckled us for “reaching” on a bunch of these picks. Little would they have known that we were constructing a juggernaut.
1st round: Jonathan Taylor (RB – IND)
Taylor’s preseason ADP was RB8, and he was going at pick 1.09 on average. He finished with a league-high 1,811 rushing yards, 360 receiving yards, and 20 total touchdowns. Taylor racked up 353.1 fantasy points, 44.3 points more than his next-closest pursuer, Austin Ekeler. There will be little debate about who’ll be the 1.01 in 2022 drafts.
2nd round: Josh Allen (QB – BUF)
A quarterback in the second round? Reach! Well, Patrick Mahomes had an early second-round ADP for 2021 drafts, but Allen turned out to be the better prize. He was the QB2 in preseason ADP and was going at pick 3.02 on average. Allen topped 400 fantasy points to finish as the QB1 for a second consecutive season.
3rd round: Chris Godwin (WR – TB)
Godwin in the middle of the third round wouldn’t have been a home run – more of a ringing double down the left field line. He finished WR17 in fantasy scoring but WR10 in fantasy points per game among receivers who played at least eight games. Godwin was one of the most consistent performers in fantasy, and he had his share of big games, too, eclipsing the 100-yard mark in five of his 14 games.
4th round: Cooper Kupp (WR – LAR)
Now, this was a home run. I despise the term “league winner” because I think it’s rare for an individual player to singlehandedly win leagues, but Kupp was largely responsible for a great many fantasy championships this season. He finished with 145 catches for 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns, leading the NFL in all three categories. Kupp finished 17 yards short of Calvin Johnson’s single-season record for receiving yardage. Kupp’s preseason ADP: WR19. Fellow Rams WR Robert Woods was going WR15.
5th round: Mark Andrews (TE – BAL)
Travis Kelce had led tight ends in half-point PPR fantasy scoring for three straight seasons, but Andrews seized the Iron Throne by catching 107 balls for 1,361 yards and nine touchdowns. Ravens QB Lamar Jackson missed five games, but Andrews kept producing even when Baltimore had to turn to second-stringer Tyler Huntley and third-stringer Josh Johnson.
6th round: Ja’Marr Chase (WR – CIN)
Remember how worried everyone was when Chase came down with a bad case of the dropsies in training camp and the preseason? His preseason ADP fell to WR26, and he was typically going toward the end of the sixth round. The rookie finished with 81 catches for 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns – even though he dropped a few balls. Chase averaged 18.0 yards per catch and an outrageous 11.4 yards per target.
7th round: Deebo Samuel (WR – SF)
San Francisco WR Brandon Aiyuk had a preseason ADP of WR23. Deebo was going WR35. In the first half of the regular season, Deebo dominated in a traditional WR role, averaging 110.3 receiving yards over his first eight games. In the second half of the season, the 49ers turned Deebo into a hybrid WR-RB and he had seven TD runs in his final eight regular-season contests. He’s turned into one of the more unique offensive weapons of this generation.
8th round: James Conner (RB – ARI)
Conner was destined to share work with Chase Edmonds, and fantasy managers preferred Edmonds (ADP: RB27) to Conner (ADP: RB36). Edmonds wasn’t bad when healthy, but Conner racked up 18 TDs, went completely nuclear in some of the games that Edmonds missed, and finished as the RB5.
9th round: Sony Michel (RB – LAR)
The Rams acquired Michel in a late-August trade, but it was Darrell Henderson who initially served as the Rams’ workhorse after Cam Akers tore his Achilles in late July. When Henderson sprained his MCL in late November, Michel went on a late-season rampage, averaging 15.6 fantasy points per game over a five-game stretch from Week 13 to Week 17 – a critical stretch in fantasy leagues.
10th round: Jaylen Waddle (WR – MIA)
Another rookie receiver makes it onto our perfect-draft roster. Consistently productive throughout the season, Waddle picked up the pace just a bit with a nice finishing kick and wound up with 104 catches for 1,015 yards and six touchdowns, good for a WR16 finish. His preseason ADP was WR44.
11th round: Kirk Cousins (QB – MIN)
Hey, we don’t need to reach for a backup quarterback when we have Josh Allen as our starter. Cousins was steady throughout the season and finished QB11.
12th round: Zach Ertz (TE – ARI)
Coming off a nightmare 2020 season, Ertz started 2021 slowly but went into overdrive when the Eagles traded him to the Cardinals after Week 6. From Week 7 on, Ertz was the TE4 in fantasy scoring.
13th round: Amon-Ra St. Brown (WR – DET)
All hail the sun god! After an unassuming start to his season, St. Brown caught fire in Week 13 and racked up 51 catches, 560 yards, and five touchdowns over his last six games. His torrid finish propelled a lot of fantasy managers to titles.
14th round: Rashaad Penny (RB – SEA)
We’ve been waiting for this former first-round draft pick to make a splash, and he made a big one late in his fourth NFL season. Over his last five games, Penny topped the 100-yard mark four times and scored six touchdowns. He led all running backs in fantasy scoring from Week 14 on, averaging 21.5 points a game over that span. His preseason ADP was RB54
15th round: Cordarrelle Patterson (RB – ATL)
Patterson faded down the stretch, but he was the RB7 in fantasy scoring through the first 15 weeks of the season. He finished with 618 rushing yards, 548 receiving yards, and 11 total touchdowns. Not bad for a 30-year-old former kick return specialist with a preseason ADP of RB72.
16th round: Dallas Cowboys (D/ST)
The Cowboys’ DST went from 21st in fantasy scoring last season to first this season. Who could have imagined that the Dallas defense would actually carry the Dallas offense down the stretch? Rookie LB Micah Parsons had 13 regular-season sacks, and CB Trevon Diggs had a league-leading 11 interceptions, two of which he ran back for touchdowns.