BATSBY Sports offers a dry run of expectations when holding the No. 4 draft slot in 12-team drafts (PPR scoring), working exclusively off an ESPN.com mock from July 31.
For this 16-round draft, with two tailbacks, two wide receivers and a RB/WR flex as starters, I initially planned to adopt the time-tested ‘4-2-1 strategy’ in PPR leagues, calling for four high-end receivers, two targets-friendly tailbacks and either a top-seven quarterback or top-five tight end for the first seven rounds.
However, that plan went out of the window … once the tailback market remained robust for Round 5-7.
So, as a reflex, we adjusted on the fly.
ROUND 1 (Pick 4) — MOTIVE: Best running back available
OPTION #1: RB Derrick Henry, Titans
OPTION #2: RB Alvin Kamara, Saints
OPTION #3: RB Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys
If Derrick Henry can become the first player in NFL history to amass 2,000 rushing yards in back-to-back campaigns … he’ll be a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame by season’s end.
Here’s another acknowledgment: We’re somewhat skeptical of Henry reaching the above mark in 2021 … given how no player in league history has reached the 2K rushing threshold multiple times.
As for the fantasy angle, Henry (35 total touchdowns since 2019) should be no worse than the No. 4 pick in PPR drafts, despite never exceeding 35 receiving targets in a single season.
Think about that: Henry requires little or no receiving help to rank among the PPR elite.
Side note: In case you’re wondering here, Patrick Mahomes was snagged at No. 2 overall for this mock, despite having a Round 2/3 grade with most fantasy experts. On the plus side, he’s BATSBY Sports’ top-ranked quarterback for the preseason.
ROUND 2 (Pick 21) — MOTIVE: Best playmaker available
OPTION #1: WR Calvin Ridley, Falcons
OPTION #2: WR DeAndre Hopkins, Cardinals
OPTION #3: TE Darren Waller, Raiders
With Julio Jones now property of the Titans, Ridley (eight games of 100 yards receiving in 2020) figures to be a good bet for 95-plus catches, 1,300 yards and double-digit touchdowns this season, while vaulting to the Falcons’ No. 1 wideout slot.
The only thing hindering this belief: Ridley must show marked improvement from last year’s so-so catch-to-target rate of 63 percent.
Why is that? A healthy Ridley should command at least 160 targets in the Falcons’ progressive passing attack.
ROUND 3 (Pick 28) — MOTIVE: Best playmaker available
OPTION #1: WR Justin Jefferson, Vikings
OPTION #2: RB David Montgomery, Bears
OPTION #3: WR DK Metcalf, Seahawks
Jefferson (88 catches, 1,400 yards, 7 TDs) just concluded one of the greatest rookie campaigns, among wideouts, in recent fantasy history.
In fact, when citing his final 14 outings, Jefferson posted seven efforts of seven-plus catches, seven games of 100-plus yards and seven scores; and for Weeks 12-17, the LSU product notched double-digit targets five times.
Put it all together, and Jefferson could be an outright PPR heist somewhere in the third round.
ROUND 4 (Pick 45) — MOTIVE: Best playmaker available
OPTION #1: WR Diontae Johnson, Steelers
OPTION #2: QB Josh Allen, Bills
OPTION #3: RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Chiefs
When in doubt in Round 4 … roll with the receiver in a pass-happy offense who easily posted career highs in catches (88), targets (144), receiving yards (923) and touchdowns (seven) in 2020.
Of equal importance, in his final 10 outings last season, Johnson collected double-digit targets eight times.
ROUND 5 (Pick 52) — MOTIVE: Best running back or wideout available
OPTION #1: RB Kareem Hunt, Browns
OPTION #2: WR Brandon Aiyuk, 49ers
ROUND 6 (Pick 69) — MOTIVE: Best tailback or wide receiver available
OPTION #1: RB Raheem Mostert, 49ers
OPTION #2: WR Robby Anderson, Panthers
OPTION #3: WR Chase Claypool, Steelers
I might be the only fantasy expert who’d dare take Mostert at Round 6 in PPR drafts, given his injury history, middling scoring production last year (three TDs) and lack of targets consistency within the San Francisco passing offense.
However, I’m not ready to throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water. We’re still talking about the same lightning-fast Mostert who notched 13 total touchdowns (12 rushing) in his final nine games of the 2019 campaign — including the playoffs and Super Bowl.
ROUND 7 (Pick 76) — MOTIVE: Best playmaker available
OPTION #1: RB Ronald Jones II, Buccaneers
OPTION #2: WR Jerry Jeudy, Broncos
OPTION #3: RB Melvin Gordon, Broncos
Leonard Fournette deserves major props for his strong finish last season, accounting for seven touchdowns in his final seven games (including the playoffs and Super Bowl).
However, we’re not sold on Fournette holding the Bucs’ RB1 job this season.
After all, Jones notched four outings 100-plus rushing yards and eight total touchdowns. He even averaged 5.1 yards per carry.
The only downside: Jones must break out of his two-year average of 41 targets … and establish himself as a reliable resource for 50-55 targets.
ROUND 8 (Pick 93) — MOTIVE: Best wide receiver available
OPTION #1: WR Marquise Brown, Ravens
OPTION #2: WR Marvin Jones Jr., Jaguars
OPTION #3: WR Jaylen Waddle, Dolphins
Brown forged a big-time rally from last year’s zero-catch clunker against the Titans (Week 11). Over the next eight games (including the playoffs), Brown collected six-plus targets seven times, four-plus catches seven times and found the end zone six times.
And in terms of game-changing plays, it’s easy to look back at Brown’s game-clinching score against Cleveland and loudly wonder, ‘Why can’t Brown do something electric EVERY week?’
ROUND 9 (Pick 100) — MOTIVE: Established playmaker with significant usage
OPTION #1: RB David Johnson, Texans
OPTION #2: WR Marvin Jones, Jaguars
OPTION #3: WR Cole Beasley, Bills
Here are two reasons why we’re not abandoning Johnson in fantasyland, despite the flood of veteran runners in the Texans’ backfield:
a) Johnson produced four total touchdowns (three rushing) in his final four games last season.
b) The Northern Iowa product conjured up glorious memories of the old Johnson against the Colts in Week 15, catching all 11 targets for 106 receiving yards.
ROUND 10 (Pick 117) — MOTIVE: Best QB1 available
LONE OPTION: QB Matthew Stafford, Rams
ROUND 11 (Pick 124) — MOTIVE: Best backup quarterback available
OPTION #1: QB Ryan Tannehill, Titans
OPTION #2: QB Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars
OPTION #3: QB Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
ROUND 12 (Pick 141) — MOTIVE: Best tight end available
OPTION #1: TE Tyler Higbee, Rams (stacked with Stafford at TE1)
ROUND 13 (Pick 148) — MOTIVE: Best defense/special teams
OPTION #1: D/ST Pittsburgh Steelers (top-3 ranking with sacks, interceptions, defensive TDs last season)
ROUND 14 (Pick 165) — MOTIVE: Best placekicker available
OPTION #1: PK Younghoee Koo, Falcons (led the NFL in field goals made last season)
OPTION #2: PK Jason Sanders, Dolphins
ROUND 15 (Pick 172) — MOTIVE: Best high-upside wideout available
OPTION #1: WR Rashod Bateman, Ravens (the rookie has apparently looked great in camp)
ROUND 16 (Pick 189) — MOTIVE: Best handcuff option at running back
OPTION #1: RB Darrynton Evans, Titans (injury protection against Derrick Henry)