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NFL Draft

Fantasy Football Standard Scoring Mock Draft: May Edition

  • The Draft Network
  • May 13, 2021
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The NFL Draft has come and gone, which means it’s time to look ahead at the next draft: Your fantasy football draft! We here at TDN Fantasy will do our best to assist all fantasy football players by looking at various formats. Powered by Underdog Fantasy, let's dive into a first-round mock draft for standard leagues. I did a one-round, 12-team mock draft, and as usual, running backs dominated the first round. Check it out—and feel free to ask me any questions on Twitter @ZachCohenFB!

1. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers

I’m not fully sold on McCaffrey going No. 1 for the second consecutive season. It’s always risky picking a player this high a year after he dealt with injuries. Until I find a valid on-field reason against him, though, he’ll stay atop the draft board. Let’s not forget that McCaffrey had one of the greatest fantasy seasons of all time in 2019. Last season could have been no different, especially considering how well he performed in limited action. In the three games McCaffrey was healthy for in 2020, he averaged 24.43 fantasy points—and nothing suggests his workload will decrease any time soon. My advice will always stay the same, though: Avoid the first pick.

2. Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings

For a player who’s also dealt with injury concerns for most of his career, 2020 was a pleasant surprise for Cook. I’ll side-step the enticing puns here and just get to the point: Cook is a top-three lock. Not only did he average the most touches per game (25.4), but Cook did so on nearly 72% of the Vikings’ offensive snaps. That was the fourth-best rate behind David Johnson, David Montgomery, and Ezekiel Elliott. His level of production with that much opportunity equates to the perfect storm in all fantasy formats. Cook gets the nod over Derrick Henry due to more opportunities in the passing game.

3. Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans

If this were a PPR format, Henry would be behind Alvin Kamara, and maybe behind Saquon Barkley. But it’s a standard format, where Henry thrives. He led all running backs in points last season with nearly 20 more points than Kamara, who finished with the second most. Another factor working in Henry’s favor: Touches. Four players touched the ball more than 300 times last year. Cook was second with 356 touches. Henry had 397. As long as the Titans keep pounding the rock with him, Henry should be a top fantasy player in all formats. It would be nice for him to get a few more targets, though.

4. Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints

Kamara would be above Henry in PPR formats, but his fantasy production is far too great to knock him down any further, even in standard scoring. Despite averaging fewer than 13 rushing attempts a game, Kamara’s role in the Saints’ passing game kept his weekly scoring average to 19.65 points. New Orleans essentially treats Kamara like another receiver. Considering the Saints did next to nothing to get more offensive weapons (the team was heavily restricted by salary cap issues), I expect Kamara to still have a large role in the passing game. Latavius Murray may eat up a few carries here and there, but make no mistake: Kamara is still a top-five fantasy player.

5. Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

Barkley presents a real pickle. On one hand, the only game he fully played last season came against the lock-down Steelers defense in Week 1. On the other hand, Barkley is still one of the most talented players in football on a team that will undoubtedly feed him the ball. I get the hesitation with drafting him after he dealt with injuries last season, but so did McCaffrey, and he’s going No. 1. Forget that the Giants ran the ball the seventh-fewest number of times per game in 2020. Having a player like Barkley should change that, especially when he can be just as effective as a receiver. He may not be the safest pick at No. 5, so it’s understandable if you opt for another player. Just remember how lethal Barkley was in fantasy during his first two seasons in the NFL.

6. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts

Taylor is slowly becoming my favorite first-round value in fantasy football. He only averaged 14.45 points last year, but his final six games saw him averaging nearly 22 points a week. After finally earning the full trust of Frank Reich and his staff, Taylor showed he can handle 20 carries a week. If he is to reach his full potential, he’ll need to have a larger role in the Colts’ offense, mainly in the passing game. Even though he was banged up in the middle of the season, Taylor saw fewer snaps per game than more than 25 other running backs from Week 8 on. As long as Nyheim Hines is still in town, Taylor’s role as a receiver may be a bit limited. Either way, his arrow is only pointing upward as he becomes a more permanent fixture in Indianapolis’ offense. If he can get a few more plays a game, Taylor can become a key part of your championship roster.

7. Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns

There are a couple of factors keeping Chubb from the top of draft boards. The first is the ever-bearing presence of Kareem Hunt. The second is directly related to Hunt: Chubb’s lack of passing-game involvement. He saw more than two targets just twice in 2020, which is also the number of times he played more than 60% of Cleveland’s offensive snaps. Don’t let the stats fool you: Chubb is a very good running back. There’s a reason why he averaged nearly 17 points in the eight games following his five-game hiatus. Considering how Kevin Stefanski likes to utilize his running backs, Chubb doesn’t have too much room to see more targets. Nonetheless, I’d still definitely take him in the first round.

8. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

Elliott is an interesting case study. His 2020 season was essentially defined by Dak Prescott’s season-ending injury in Week 5. Before Prescott’s injury, Elliott was tearing up defenses as usual. Not only did he average 17.54 points, but five of his six rushing touchdowns came during that five-game span. Without Prescott, defenses really honed in on Elliott, who ended up with a disappointing weekly average of 11.45 points. It’s easy to overlook his lack of production in hopes that he can return to form when Prescott comes back. However, the rise of the Cowboys’ receiving group and the steady decline of their offensive line may impact Elliott—the keyword being “may.” I would wait to hear how everyone’s looking in Dallas’ training camp before fading Elliott, but there’s enough evidence to suggest a pending boom-or-bust season for him.

9. Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers

The day has finally come for Aaron Jones truthers: Jamaal Williams is gone! With Williams in Detroit, the only viable threat to Jones’ workload has left the building. Even if AJ Dillon steals some more short-yardage snaps from Jones, the veteran can still eat up most of Williams’ 35 targets from last season. When a running back is your team’s second-most targeted player (as Jones was) then you shouldn’t expect his role to change too much. This makes his 2020 campaign a good indicator for 2021. Jones averaged 15.14 fantasy points, which isn’t great, yet it’s still enough to keep him in first-round consideration. I can’t see Matt LaFleur suddenly moving away from the run game, either. Losing center Corey Linsley may hurt the Packers a bit, but their selection of Ohio State center Josh Myers in the second round all but confirms their commitment to that unit. The one X-factor here, and it’s a big one, is the Aaron Rodgers situation. I’m not going to pretend to be Adam Schefter and forecast Rodgers’ future. What I will say is Jones could be heavily impacted if Rodgers leaves and Jordan Love doesn’t live up to expectations. This is one selection that could change as Rodgers’ situation develops.

10. Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers

Consider Adams as WR1a, whereas Tyreek Hill is WR1b. Adams is a bit more consistent for my liking, while Hill has a higher ceiling and lower floor every week. Excluding when Adams got hurt in Week 2, there were only two games last season where he failed to find the endzone. Despite near-certain regression in that category, Adams will still be a top receiver in 2021. Of course, who’s throwing him the ball may have an impact on his fantasy relevancy. Until then, there’s no reason why Adams won’t average double-digit targets each week. Yes, Hill may offer more versatility, and he’s not a bad player to take over Adams, I’d just give the Packers’ wide receiver a slight nod due to more consistency. Adams saw double-digit targets in all but three games (four if you include Week 2 again), something Hill didn’t do as much. If anything, the real decision is where to value Adams and Hill against running backs or Travis Kelce. I’ll get to Kelce in a second, but for now, running backs should be valued higher in standard leagues because they simply get the ball more. However, Adams’ involvement and production should still warrant a first-round selection.

11. Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

As you may have guessed, I’m torn over where to place Hill. Anyone who claimed he was just a gadget receiver who relies on speed was proven wrong in 2020. Hill showed he’s become a more complete receiver, which helps his fantasy stock. He averaged 16.3 points per week while scoring fewer than 10 points just three times. Having Patrick Mahomes helps, even if Hill has to compete with Kelce for targets—something Adams doesn’t have to deal with. My one, small knock on Hill is he could see 18 targets one week and just six the next. Luckily, a player of his skill set is a threat to score on any pass, so his lack of consistent double-digit targets isn’t that big of a deal. The argument for having Hill and Adams over running backs like Cam Akers and Joe Mixon is you mostly know what you’re getting with the receivers; there aren’t any projections to make. Take Akers, for example. He finished the year as the Rams’ true RB1 while averaging more than 20 carries and around 13 points per game. It’s a good finish, but you’re still wondering if he can replicate that consistently in 2021. The signs may point to yes, but you still haven’t seen Akers do it. You’ve seen what Hill and Adams can do, and they’ll be in a similar situation to do it again this season. That’s why I have Hill and Adams ahead of other running backs.

12. Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

I initially had Kelce over Hill and Adams due to the volatility of the tight end position in fantasy. After further review, I decided to slide Kelce behind the pair of wide receivers. Simply put, Adams and Hill just get more points. While I would be tempted to secure the TE1, Kelce basically maxed out his fantasy production last season. He essentially performed like a receiver, finishing fifth overall in receptions, second in receiving yards, and tied for fourth in receiving touchdowns. Darren Waller was close, but he wasn’t Kelce. But Waller was a viable weekly option, which is rare in fantasy. That’s why you may be fine passing on Kelce to take Waller at the end of round two or beginning of round three, where his ADP currently lies. Don’t get me wrong, this is an appropriate draft slot for Kelce. No tight end consistently does what he does every year. Maybe I’m assuming that all these guys will replicate their success from prior seasons. As important as projection is in fantasy, the greatest indicator for future success is almost always past success. Snagging Kelce at the end of round one can allow you to fill your lineup with skill players for the next six to seven rounds, at a minimum.

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