It’s truly surreal that I am reviewing the July PPR Mock for
the seventh consecutive year. With every year of experience playing
this game that we love, I learn more. I learn new things; new concepts;
new ideas. I learn some things I didn’t even know were there
to learn. But one thing that’s remained constant over the
years is the value and purpose of mock drafts. I wrote the following
two paragraphs back in 2015 as an intro, but I doubt anyone will
remember that. So here they are again (with some 2021 addenda) to
get your mind focused on the information to come.
I once had a friend ask me what the point of a mock draft is. Much
of the excitement and enjoyment of a draft is eyeing that player
you want and actually being able to draft and root for him all season.
A mock is not real. You don’t actually roster any of those
players. And it’s not as if your actual drafts will mimic
your mock drafts. This attitude made me realize that many people
do not understand the underlying purpose of mocks – to educate
This article is going to discuss one mock conducted in July, concluding
roughly six weeks before the heart of draft season. A lot is going
to change between now and then. Player perception will change. Player
value will change. ADPs will rise and fall. Players will get injured.
We will find out the vaccination status of players, which will play
a role in 2021 player evaluation as unvaccinated players will not
only come with an increased risk of missing games, but will have
significant competitive disadvantages based on the NFL covid protocols.
Your actual draft will look much different than this mock that I
am about to discuss. So, what’s the point of discussing it
at all? When reviewing this particular mock and reading this article,
remember to focus on the concepts; focus on the why, not the what,
or the who. Let’s get to it.
1. I noticed the first two rounds were a tale of two halves.
The first round saw 9 of the first 10 picks be running backs.
After the 10th overall pick, just three of the next 15 picks were
running backs. This tells me, at least for these 12 managers,
they had very clear ranking breaks between the running backs and
the wide receivers. The first round of fantasy drafts is always
running back heavy because it is more difficult to find running
backs in the middle rounds than it is wide receivers. Outside
of the clear top two wide receiver, Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams,
and the TE1, Travis Kelce, these managers preferred running backs
to the rest of the pass catchers. However, once the 12th running
back was taken, the entire draft room shifted their focus to pass
2. I noticed that after the first two rounds, the drafting
of running backs and wide receivers evened out.
In fact, it evened out perfectly with exactly 11 running backs
and 11 wide receivers selected in rounds three and four. This
corresponds with the general outlook towards 2021 drafts. They
start running back heavy. Once the top running backs are off the
board, they shift to wide receiver heavy (with Travis
Waller, and George
Kittle sprinkled in). After those top guys are gone, things
level off and itís very much a personal preference/best player
3. I noticed that just one team started with two running
backs in their first two selections.
With the exception of WhiteWonder, who clearly made it a point
to start WR-WR regardless of his draft position (as evidenced
by taking Tyreek Hill at 1.05, which, in my humble opinion, is
too early to consider a non-running back), every other team came
out of the first two rounds with one running back and one pass
catcher, other than Robb, who went with Nick Chubb and Cam Akers.
I donít want to spoil my annual late August draft strategy
article, but Iíve learned some things from 2020 and from
early mocks Ė it sure looks like this will be the most common
start. Although the early running backs are much safer and provide
more upside than the middle-round running backs, there are still
more useful running backs in rounds 3-7 than there typically are.
This lessens the pressure on those who can go RB-RB to feel compelled
to do so.
In 2020, it was difficult to go RB-RB and feel good about it.
In 2021, itís much easier given the talent and upside of
typical second round backs like Joe Mixon, Najee Harris, and Antonio Gibson. The difference is you donít have to force the running
back if you donít want to. Stefon Diggs, DeAndre Hopkins,
Justin Jefferson, Calvin Ridley, DK Metcalf, and A.J. Brown all
feel like they are a step above the wide receivers ranked below
them to the point where you can justify passing on the running
back for a perceived edge at the wide receiver position.
4. I noticed the return of the middle round quarterback.
In 2020, we saw Patrick
Mahomes and Lamar
Jackson regularly gone by the end of the third round (they
didnít make it out of the second in the July
2020 mock), but the next quarterback was not selected until
the middle of the sixth round. In this yearís mock, Mahomes went
in the third round and Josh
Allen went in the fourth round, but the fifth round saw a
whole slew of quarterbacks fly off the board. Kyler
Murray, Lamar Jackson, Dak
Prescott, and Russell
Wilson all failed to make it out of the fifth round. Justin
Herbert was the seventh quarterback selected this year. He
was taken at the exact same spot as last yearís QB2, Deshaun
Watson. This shouldnít come as a surprise fresh off a season
where a whopping 10 quarterbacks averaged over 20 fantasy points
per game. I am quite confident that is the highest total number
of quarterbacks over 20 FPts/G in fantasy football history. The
late-round quarterback strategy is still viable, but there is
value in selecting a quarterback in rounds five or six because
you want that guy that can hit 20 FPts/G.
5. I noticed that this group was very resistant to rookie
is the first rookie selected in every draft, but his ADP is around
the middle of round two. Harris remained on the board until 3.02.
The next rookie selected was JaíMarr Chase at 5.04, which is in
line with his ADP. Kyle
Pitts was the third rookie taken at 6.04, which is way below
his early fifth round ADP. Travis
Etienne and Javonte
Williams went back-to-back at 6.09 and 6.10. They rarely make
it out of the fifth round anymore and I wouldnít be surprised
if either of their ADPs pushed towards the third round by late
August. These were two of the best picks of the draft. The Football
Guru was easily the most bullish on this rookie class given that
he selected a whopping five players that have yet to play an NFL
snap. Yet, despite his status as the guy that loves rookies the
most, he didnít really reach for a single one, and three of them
came in the double-digit rounds. The great unknown about rookies
provides opportunity for value every year, but fantasy managers
must be disciplined in not overpaying for the young guns. These
12 managers accomplished that task.
6. I noticed that in contrast to last season, this group
turned on ageing veterans.
One of my observations from the 2020 mock was how the managers
were buying resurgent seasons from the likes of Todd
Bell, and Melvin
Gordon. That didnít really work out as Gurley and Bell are
currently unemployed, DJ is on what should be the leagueís worst
offense, and Gordon just watched his team trade up for a running
back in the second round. Some of this yearís ageing veterans
Jones (5.02), Gordon (6.12), Odell
Beckham Jr. (7.02), David
Johnson (8.05), and A.J.
Green (14.09). These players are being drafted at the nadir
of their career ADPs (at least their careers post breaking out
in the NFL). While itís difficult to see anyone other than Julio
ending up being worth it, none of their costs are prohibitively
expensive such that if they do crash and burn, it will not be
as damaging as taking Gurley round two or Bell round three was
7. I noticed that two NFL teams tied for having the most
players selected from a specific team.
As for the Dolphins, Myles Gaskin, Will Fuller, DeVante Parker,
Mike Gesicki, Jaylen Waddle, Tua Tagovailoa, and the defense all
make sense. I would expect them to be drafted in every standard
sized 12 team league. The two surprises were Malcolm Brown and
Salvon Ahmed. Granted, they both went extremely late as nothing
more than RB5s, and I understand one of them being drafted, but
both was a bit of a stunner. It appears as though the primary
running back role in Miami is far more coveted than I thought.
8. I noticed that just one team ended up constructing
a roster using something other than the best player available.
When you look at how drafts go, whether by intent or happenstance,
there are typically some clearly defined team builds you can pinpoint.
In every draft, there will usually be a team or two that went
Zero RB, a team or two that went Robust RB, etc. In this mock,
Hawkeye21 put together a Single/Hero/Anchor RB roster. He took
the best possible lone RB for this approach, Christian McCaffrey,
and then rattled off three wide receivers and a tight end before
drafting his second running back. While I donít personally
love his choices regarding the specific players, he implemented
the strategy to near-perfection by grabbing an elite RB, three
extremely reliable WRs, and a strong TE, before rattling off three
potential RB2s. In what I think will be a theme in 2021 drafts,
like the other 11 teams, I anticipate many fantasy managers just
going with the top player on their board, especially early on,
and worrying about positional need later.
9. I noticed that for the second consecutive year, shovelheadt
decided he needed to back up the most talented quarterback in
I really donít understand it. Last year, I ripped shovelheadt
for selecting Aaron Rodgers at 7.03. As it turns out, Rodgers
was well worth that draft position, but was he worth it to shovelheadt?
Obviously, this is a mock, so no one is actually setting lineups.
But I question how many times Rodgers would have even started
for him if this were a real league? Even in an MVP campaign for
the Packer, Mahomes averaged 0.8 ppg more than Rodgers. Similarly,
what exactly is the scenario where Joe Burrow makes more than
a single start for this team? Shovelheadt passed on legitimate
starting caliber players such as Chase Claypool, Tyler Boyd, and
Courtland Sutton in order to spend a premium pick on a player
that will, at most, play exactly one week for this team. I just
wish I could get an explanation of shovelheadtís affinity
for not only drafting a backup for Patrick Mahomes, but using
a top seven round pick to do so.
10. I noticed the draft position of four particular players. Let’s
Barkley 1.09: Typically, in this section Iím
discussing four players that were either selected significantly
higher or lower than where I would take them. With Barkley, this
is just a discussion of him. Not one person would dispute the
fact that 1.09 is incredibly late for BarkleyÖ if he was fully
healthy. And therein lies the point of mentioning him Ė how worried
are we about Barkleyís knee? These managers were clearly quite
concerned because otherwise, Barkley would never make it out of
the top five. Given that itís only July, itís impossible to have
any high level of confidence regarding where Barkley will be in
late August when the vast majority of fantasy drafts are conducted.
This may come as a complete surprise to you, but I am not a doctor
(insert shocked face emoji here).
With that being said, I have seen Barkleyís quads, so I
can deduce he will be all systems go in Week 1. Okay, thatís
not the actual reason. The real reason I have confidence that
Barkley will be fine is that although there have been whispers
of the Giants easing Barkley in early in the season, if Barkley
wasnít fully recovered, I donít believe he would be
playing at all. Barkley tore his ACL in September 2020. Early
season ACL tears are typically fully healed by the start of the
following summer. If there was serious concern about Barkleyís
knee, there would be reports about him possibly not being ready
for Week 1. If something like that started coming out, then I
would fully endorse plummeting Barkley down draft boards. As it
stands, I would still draft Barkley in the top five as normal,
making Barkley a tremendous value at 1.09.
Gibson 3.03: This one was quite staggering to
behold. Antonio Gibson is a fringe first round pick that rarely
makes it to the back half of the second round. Vikings4ever was
able to snag him in the third round and pair him with Derrick
Henry and A.J.
Brown. Essentially, Vikings4ever got two second round picks.
Even though Gibson went so late, I canít really say any of the
players taken before him were egregiously bad picks. None of the
running backs selected before Gibson were reaches and the second-round
wide receivers are all being taken where they belong. Even if
and Allen Robinson
were not taken before Gibson, I would still feel like Gibson fell
too far. Perhaps this speaks to the advantage of picking early
because you get that bulletproof running back and the chance to
get not only an elite, difference-making wide receiver, but a
second member of what I consider a ďtop 17Ē at the running back
5.02: Julio Jones is one of the most fascinating players
to discuss entering the 2021 season. At 32 years old, we know
the end is near. The man Julio replaced a decade ago, Roddy White,
was an elite WR1 at 31 and then done at 32. I do not think Julio
Jones is done. He averaged 16.2 FPts/G last season, good for a
WR14 finish. I donít believe vintage 20 FPts/G Julio still exists,
but 16 FPts/G is about the threshold for WR1 production. Julio
is still capable of being a WR1. I am not concerned about the
team change to a low volume passing attack because there is simply
no one else to throw to outside of Julio and A.J. Brown. I am
confident both will exceed a 25% target share.
What I saw last year and what the numbers indicate is that Julio
still has at least one very good year left in him. He may fall
apart at age 33, but I still like him at age 32. The primary reason
Julio is now a fifth-round pick instead of the perennial top 18
pick heís been throughout his career is the injury concerns.
The issue with Julio ageing is less a projected decline in his
on-field ability and more a decline in his ability to stay on
the field. Despite missing just four games from 2014-2019, Julio
was constantly on the injury report with various ailments that
were enough to limit him practice, but not enough to keep him
out of games. In 2020, at age 31, it clearly become increasingly
difficult to play through those nagging injuries that have plagued
him throughout his career. In his mid-to-late 20s, he could manage
and play through them. As we saw last season, that proved much
more difficult at age 31.
I believe Julio is properly priced in the fourth or early fifth
round because while youíre still getting low WR1/high WR2
production from him at a low WR2 price, you can be confident you
are not getting 17 games out of him. When Julio is on the field,
he will be a value for whomever drafts him. The question is how
often will he be on the field and will it be enough where the
combination of Julio and whichever player fills in for him when
he misses games is worth the draft slot.
7.04: I spent the first three parts of this section singing
the praises of these fine fantasy managers. I have to find at
least one negative, right? Overall, I thought there were an abundance
of really great picks in this draft; a lot of players being taken
below consensus. Joe Burrow is not one of those players. To be
clear, I believe in Burrow as a talent, both real life and fantasy.
I believe in this Bengals offense but I also believe in value
and the importance of not reaching for players in fantasy drafts.
ADP is certainly not the be all/end all, and you should not be
a slave to it. But it is a tool to be used to maximize the value
of your team. When you take a player significantly above ADP,
you are sapping value out of the pick. At 7.04, thatís approximately
two full rounds above ADP for Burrow.
One approach I like to take when thereís a player I want,
but I know itís too early, is to say to myself, ďI
wonít take him until Player X is gone.Ē Shovelheadt
would have been wise to apply this to Burrow with say, Tom Brady
and Jalen Hurts. Both Brady and Hurts are safe bets to go before
Burrow in 90% of drafts, so anyone looking to take Burrow should
have the mindset that he or she will not draft Burrow until Hurts
and Brady are gone. Of course, this approach comes with the inherent
risk that your location in the draft order might result in you
not getting Burrow. If thatís completely unacceptable, I
get it. However, itís important to maximize value on your
roster, so, for me, thatís a risk Iíd be willing to
take. By no means am I suggesting you shouldnít get your
guys, but getting your guys needs to be worth it Ė just
make sure it is.
On a final note, remember that every mock is different. Take
a look at the June mock compared to this one and you’ll
see how very different they are. You can and should try different
strategies and approaches. See what works and what does not. See
what you like and what you do not like. Even if you disagree with
everything I’ve written, you can still learn from it. I
hope reading this article helps you as much as writing it helps