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Important lessons for your (early) Yahoo fantasy football draft

Here are my findings from three mock drafts.
Don’t hesitate to select Saquon Barkley in your fantasy football drafts. (Twitter // @RVacchianoSNY)

It’s still fairly early in the NFL offseason, so I can’t blame you if you haven’t fired up the old mock draft machine to get those fantasy football muscles working. Luckily, for you, I am one of the insane people that is hitting these mock drafts hard this time of year.

Recently, I completed three, 12-team Yahoo mocks to get a feel of what to expect when you sit down for your draft.

Team Prescott

What you see above is the first team I drafted. I held the No. 2 pick and I prioritized running back early on, selecting Saquon Barkley and D’Andre Swift with my first two selections. I’m jumping on Barkley with the second-overall pick in all drafts, despite some people holding out concern for his health after he tore his ACL at the beginning of last season. I’m not worried about his status considering the injury occurred in Week 2, giving him ample time to recover. I really like Barkley’s prospects for 2021, as he re-joins a New York Giants offense that has added Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney while the young offensive line has continued to develop. When healthy, there isn’t a more talented tail back in the league.

At wide receiver, I went with the always reliable Keenan Allen and second-year wideout CeeDee Lamb. At 29-years-old, Allen still has lots to offer as he’s topped 135 targets in four-straight seasons. Additionally, new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi is coming from the New Orleans Saints, an offense that peppered another possession receiver in Michael Thomas with targets.

I drafted Prescott in the fifth round because there is overall QB1 appeal with him. With all indicators suggesting he’ll be ready to start the season, I don’t see why he isn’t being selected inside the top-30 picks with Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. Before getting injured in Week 5, Prescott led all QBs in fantasy points while serving up 450-plus passing yards in three of his four injury-free starts. This Dallas offense is poised to be lethal once again in 2021, and as mentioned above, the poor defense will ensure the Cowboys are involved in a number of shootouts.

Two players I really liked scooping up for my bench were Laviska Shenault Jr. and Courtland Sutton. I drafted Shenault Jr. in the 11th round and I feel like that is great value. Entering his second season, the wide receiver will see a massive upgrade at quarterback as Trevor Lawrence walks through the door. I’m a huge fan of pretty much all of the early-round wide receivers from the 2020 class, and I really believe that Shenault Jr. would’ve been a first-round pick amongst the 2021 class. The 22-year-old ended his rookie season on a strong note, recording five or more receptions in four of his final five games while also adding four touchdowns. While D.J. Chark Jr. is going 30 picks ahead of Shenault Jr., according to Yahoo ADP, fantasy managers are better off waiting on Shenault Jr., who may just wind up being this offense’s ‘X’ wide receiver.

Sutton is another player coming off an injury-shortened season that is being drafted at a discount to fantasy gamers. I selected the Denver Broncos wideout in the seventh round and I had a big ole’ grin on my face while doing so. Sutton, just two years ago, finished as WR19 in PPR. Entering 2021, the 25-year-old will likely see improved quarterback play with Teddy Bridgewater taking over at the position. While Bridgewater may not be an elite quarterback, or even a good one, he is accurate. With the Carolina Panthers last season, three wide receivers (Robby Anderson, Curtis Samuel and D.J. Moore) finished in the top-25 at the position in fantasy Bridgewater is good enough to make receivers fantasy-relevant and useful.

Overall Grade: B

I didn’t mind how my first mock went. Ending up with Jared Cook at tight end wasn’t ideal, but it wasn’t horrible either as he reunites with offensive coordinator Lombardi, who knows him from New Orleans. My running back depth could be tested if I deal with injuries, but any team that loses a first or second round RB will likely be up against it. All in all, I’m pretty happy with how this squad turned out.

Team Tannehill

In this draft, I had the 11th overall pick, and I did not like drafting so late in the order. I selected Cam Akers in the first round and followed it up with Davante Adams on the swing. By far, the worst part of holding a late draft slot is the wait between your second and third pick. Of the 20 players that went off the board between my picks, 10 were running backs.

I selected Josh Jacobs in Round 3, and if I had to do it differently, I probably would’ve picked a receiver instead. In the moment, I was too afraid of missing out on a running back so I picked the best player available at the position. Truthfully, I’m really worried about the impact newly-signed tailback Kenyan Drake will have on Jacobs’ fantasy value. Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden has spoken highly of Drake since joining the team, and his presence will surely cut into Jacobs’ receiving upside. I should’ve selected Terry McLaurin, who was still available when making this selection.

Ryan Tannehill is a great choice for those looking to wait at quarterback. The addition of Julio Jones gives the 32-year-old another elite passing option in addition to the ascending A.J. Brown. Tannehill finished last season as QB7 in fantasy, and it’s hard to see him finishing worse now that Jones is in the mix. He’s currently the 12th passer off the board, according to Yahoo ADP.

In each of my first two drafts, I was able to select Javonte Williams as my flex option. I’m a huge believer in Williams, and if you haven’t already, I implore you to see some of his finer work from college. At 5-foot-10, 212 lbs, he has three-down back size and is very hard to bring down upon initial contact. Of course, Melvin Gordon is still around and will see his fair share of work, but as the year progresses, I expect the younger, fresher Williams to command the majority of the work.

Overall Grade: C+

Like I said, I made a crucial blunder in Round 3 and that just can’t happen. With one running back already on my roster, I should’ve loaded up on receivers while letting value at the position fall to me in later rounds. I reached on Jacobs, and that cost me a top-tier wideout. Going from Prescott in my first draft to Tannehill in this one is also a bit of a downgrade, too.

Team Hurts

I owned the fifth-overall pick in the third and final mock draft I participated in, and this is a team I definitely wouldn’t mind riding for the 2021 season. Like in my first draft, I was able to snatch Barkley and Swift in the first two rounds, a tandem that I feel really confident about.

In Round 3 and 4, I was able to solidify my wide receiver slots with Michael Thomas and D.J. Moore. I really like getting Thomas as my WR1 in the third round. After an injury-riddled season, many have forgotten that the Saints wideout was the first wide receiver off the board in the majority of fantasy drafts last season. With Drew Brees now retired, either Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston will represent a noticeable improvement at the position as it seemed pretty clear that Brees did not have much left to offer last season. I’m hoping Winston wins the battle as the former first-overall pick loves to sling the rock and finished as QB5 in fantasy football two seasons ago.

Travis Etienne, especially in PPR formats, is a no-brainer at this current ADP. Being selected as RB28, Etienne is a skilled, versatile back who’ll likely handle the majority of the team’s pass-catching duties. Additionally, Etienne is a 2021 first-round pick who spent the last three seasons at Clemson lined up behind Trevor Lawrence, who’ll be starting for the Jacksonville Jaguars this year. James Robinson will still likely have a role, but Etienne will likely see the fantasy-friendly opportunities.

On each of my teams, I drafted Zack Moss. The 2020 third-round selection had a satisfactory rookie campaign, rushing 112 times for 481 yards while adding 14 receptions for 95 yards. Now entering his second season, I expect Moss to take a step forward. The Buffalo Bills did not add anybody else to the running back room this offseason, leaving just Moss and Devin Singletary to compete for touches. Moss, 5-foot-9, 223 lbs, is better suited to handle lead back duties opposed to the smaller (5-foot-7, 203 lbs) Singletary. Even though the Bills rushed the ball the 11th-least frequently of any team in the NFL in 2020, this is still an offense I don’t mind having a running back tethered to. Josh Allen, who’s totalled 25 rushing touchdowns in three seasons, will cut into the the touchdown upside, but at his current ADP as RB34, I don’t mind the value.

Overall Grade: A+

I really, really like this team. I liked getting Jalen Hurts at quarterback, as his rushing skills helped make him QB3 from Week 14 through Week 16. The Philadelphia Eagles’ passing attack should only improve with first-round pick DeVonta Smith joining the squad, too. I also liked landing T.J. Hockenson at tight end, as there’s a very strong case to be made that he leads the Detroit Lions in targets given the departures of starters Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. from the team. This roster’s got some good balance and I think it’d be tough to beat.

Of course, this is all just one person’s opinion.

I posted a poll over at my Twitter account to see what the public thought and these were the results.

An overwhelming majority sided with Team Prescott. Interesting, I certainly like that squad, but I would happily take Team Hurts over it. The upgrade of Hockenson over Cook is more than enough to offset the difference between Prescott and Hurts, while the rest of the teams are pretty similar.

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