As the 2020 NFL regular season ended, for many it was a sigh of relief to see the season completed without a drastic shift to the overall schedule. In what is sure to go down as one of the most unprecedented years in our country, the NFL found a way to navigate through these difficult times to provide the fans with another compelling 17 weeks of football. Now as we head into Wildcard week, many fantasy enthusiasts will attempt to get a jump start ahead of their league mates in preparation for the 2021 season. Player values are often fluid and sometimes hard to predict, but this is what makes fantasy football such an interesting case study year after year. Can you win your fantasy league in the off-season? No. Does work need to be done in the fantasy off-season? Absolutely. Winning a championship takes preparation, and in the competitive world of fantasy football there is no such thing as too early to prepare.
This first round mock draft is based on 12-team PPR scoring with 1QB, 2RB, 2WR, 1TE, Flex, DST, K. I will be updating this throughout the off-season. Ok now let us get to the real reason why you are here reading this article.
1.01: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers (RB1)
After compiling 2,392 total yards and 19 combined tds in 2019 CMC followed that up with an injury riddled 2020 campaign. Those who drafted him #1 overall last summer were certainly disappointed but this should not change the overall perception of the ultimate fantasy football gamechanger. In the 3 games he did play this season he was still the elite running back that we have all come to know by now. Provided he stays healthy this off-season there should be no hesitation to once again take him as the overall top player in the draft.
1.02: Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings (RB2)
Cook was stellar in 2019. In 2020 he cemented himself as one the game's best players regardless of position. With over 1,500 yards rushing and 16 tds this season there is no questioning how impactful Cook is with the ball in his hands. As electric a player as you will see, Cook also adds respectable production through the air as well as providing one of the safest floors you will find in fantasy football. The combination of that high floor and major ceiling make this an easy choice as a top of the first-round pick in all formats.
1.03: Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints (RB3)
As one of the most entertaining players to watch out there on the field, Kamara is as good a dual threat out of the backfield as there is. After a torrid first half of the season in the receiving game his production in that department took a hit after an injury to Drew Brees in Week 10. Even with that dip in production for a few weeks, he was still able to put together an elite fantasy season and a Christmas day performance for the ages. With over 900 yards rushing and 750+ receiving yards this is one of the most reliable assets to build your team around. He is one of the game's best touchdown makers (21 total tds in 15 games). Things could change a bit if Taysom Hill is the starter next year but that remains to be seen. Kamara will look to build chemistry with whoever is under center heading into 2021 if Brees does indeed end his hall of fame career and decide to retire.
1.04: Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers (WR1)
With a 115-1,374-18 stat line in 2020 on a healthy 10.6 targets per game, Adams finished as the overall WR1 rather easily. Also let us not forget, he did this in just 14 games played. Adams can beat defenders in a plethora of different ways and he just may have staked his claim as the best WR in the NFL with this incredible season. Playing with one of the league's best QBs in a resurgent Aaron Rodgers, there is no reason to think the good times will not continue in 2021.
1.05: Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants (RB4)
This player is likely to be a popular topic of discussion amongst the fantasy community heading into next season. After a season-ending ACL tear in week 2, there may be some apprehension to use a top pick on Barkley which is understood. With that said, the dynamic talent and valuable role in the offense make Barkley a risk worth taking. He offers league winning potential with his rare combination of explosive running and outstanding skills as a receiver out of the backfield. There are not many running backs in the league who can give you 80+ receptions to go along with north of 1,200 rushing yards and that is the type of production he can provide when healthy. Yes, his recovery will be a huge story to follow but with his injury occurring very early in the season I am betting on Barkley being ready for training camp this summer.
1.06: Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans (RB5)
Henry capped off his dominate 2020 campaign with 250 yards rushing in Week 17 to finish with the fifth most rushing yards ever in a season with 2,027. One of the most physically imposing offensive players we have ever seen; Henry has shown no signs of slowing down as he enters his 6th NFL season in 2021. His lack of usage in the passing game is the only thing keeping him out of the top 3 overall but with his heavy workload on the ground and nose for the endzone he is an easy mid-first round pick in PPR formats.
1.07: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts (RB6)
After a season-ending injury to Marlon Mack in Week 1, Taylor had the opportunity to take over lead-back duties and become a fantasy RB1. Following a 101-yard rushing game in Week 2 he failed top 68 yards on the ground for the next 7 contests. There was a point when fantasy owners were no longer able to start Taylor with any sort of confidence. In his final 6 games played in the regular season the Wisconsin product completely turned his season around and flashed that elite ability he displayed in college in route to 24+ fantasy points per game during that stretch to finish as a mid-range RB1 for the year. With all the great work he produced on the ground he also proved he is more than capable of catching passes as well finishing with 36 receptions. This is a player with immense upside and the potential to be an overall fantasy RB1 as soon as 2021.
1.08: Aaron Jones, RB, Unrestricted Free Agent (RB7)
Jones has now had two straight seasons as a top 5 fantasy RB and back-to-back years with over 1,450 total yards. He remains one of the most dangerous players with ball in his hands and can turn any play into a long TD. His efficiency as a runner (5.2 career avg) is a major plus given he has not had a heavy workload as a runner thus far in his career. He is the only player in the top 12 who is entering free agency so his value may change from now until then but as it stands right now Jones looks like a rock solid RB1 pick in the first round.
1.09: Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers (RB8)
An early season hamstring injury derailed a good chunk of his first season as the unquestioned lead back in 2020. If he can shake the injuries and show he can handle a decent workload Ekeler has the makings of a PPR machine at the running back position (54 rec. in 10 games). Although not the biggest running back, Ekeler is an efficient runner in an offense with a potential star QB. The Chargers need to improve the offensive line and will be bringing in a new coaching staff as well. There are some questions in that regard, but it is safe to say Ekeler should be expected to be a featured part of the offensive game plan. There is plenty of upside with this pick and it will be fun to watch him out on the field next fall.
1.10: Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs (TE1)
Kelce provides the biggest positional advantage of any player in fantasy football. His numbers are astounding for any pass catcher not just the tight end position. If you placed Kelce in the mix with WRs he would have finished the 2020 season as the WR4 overall. On the year he posted a 105-1,416-11 line with over 300 PPR fantasy points. He is a matchup nightmare for defensive coordinators and has built a rapport with QB Patrick Mahomes that is second to none. You cannot go wrong with one of the most reliable players in fantasy football with a mid to late first round pick during draft season.
1.11: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys (RB9)
In what was a season to forget for Elliott and the Cowboys, the question going into next year is if 2020 was a product of bad circumstances or a sign of decline. Given his track record I am willing to bet on this being an outlier season rather than his new norm. With a career low 4.0 avg ypc and failing to reach the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in a non-suspension season it is fair to be skeptical of him in 2021. The expected return of Dak Prescott will be a huge boost to his value as Elliott was producing his typical RB1 numbers before his QB went down. For a player who is normally taken at the top half of the first round, Zeke presents solid value if he does fall to the end of first round or later. A big bounce back could be in store.
1.12: Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs (WR2)
1,276 yards receiving this year gave Hill his 3rd season with 1,150+ yards in the last 4 years. The 5th year WR was as consistent as they get posting double digit PPR fantasy points in 14/15 games played this season. His game breaking speed lends to week winning potential at any time. Hill has without question developed himself into one of the leagues truly elite WRs. Whenever you have Mahomes as your QB and you are faster than anyone on the field good things will happen more times than not. Do not overthink this one. Tyreek is an elite WR1 and a tremendous pick here at the end of the first round.