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USATSI

Happy Friday, everyone. We've got a schedule for the 2021 NFL season, and we'll be kicking off with what will hopefully be a barn-burner on Sept. 9, when the Buccaneers host the Cowboys in the season opener. That's a pretty exciting way for the Fantasy season to start, even if it is still four months away.

The schedule didn't just tell us when every team is playing and who they are playing against, but it also confirmed how the new 18-week season will play out. You didn't forget about that, did you? Yes, every team is playing 17 games in 2021, and now we know what that's going to look like. Bye weeks will begin in Week 6 and run through Week 14, which means you'll probably want to schedule your playoffs beginning in Week 15 -- no bye weeks, and enough time to get your full bracket in before the (still expected) resting in Week 18. 

It's going to be interesting to see how the longer season impacts injuries because we'll have an extra week before the byes begin and then you'll have the Falcons, Saints, Jets, and 49ers going from Week 6 through Week 18 without a week off, while the Dolphins, Colts, Patriots, and Eagles will have 13 straight games before their Week 14 bye. Just an assumption, but I would think we'll see at least a few more injuries this season. Just warning you now. 

In today's newsletter, I've got Dave Richard's breakdown of the schedule, highlighting early-season matchups and late-season schedules, among other things you want to know about. Further down, I've got a breakdown of a recent PPR mock draft and how I fared drafting from the No. 12 spot. Plus, for those of you playing in Dynasty leagues, we did a rookie-only PPR mock draft this week, so you can check that out along with the rest of our Dynasty coverage here. You already know I'm not super enthusiastic about this year's rookie class, but you can see where everyone was drafted and what Jamey Eisenberg thinks about it there. 

Next week, I'll break down a Dynasty startup mock draft we're doing and taking a look at some regression candidates and some of the projected workhorse running backs who aren't exactly difference makers -- are they worth the investment on Draft Day? Plus, we're doing a livestream Tuesday night on our YouTube page, so make sure you head to YouTube.com/FantasyFootballToday and subscribe so you'll know when we're going live.

And now, here's our first look at the schedule:

NFL Schedule Release

How much should a player's schedule impact how you think about their Fantasy value? That's the obvious question to ask now, right? 

Should you give Kyler Murray a boost because he gets to face the Titans (30th in points allowed to QB), Vikings (16th), and Jaguars (27th) to open the season? Should you drop Josh Allen in your rankings because he opens up against the Steelers (2nd), Dolphins (4th), and Washington (6th)? 

Nope. 

I don't mean to say the schedule doesn't matter for Fantasy, but it is, at most, a tiebreaker, and even then, only for the early part of the season. Sure, Allen's got what looks to be a tough stretch to start the season, but don't forget he had seven touchdowns in two games against the Dolphins in 2020 and still had 22.3 Fantasy points in a tough game against the Steelers. Oh, and he dropped 43.2 on the Rams, last season's best defense against QB, as well. 

Part of the problem is, what a team looks like in May (or August) won't be what they look like by October. Not in the NFL, where change is the only constant. What looks like a bad stretch could wind up being a breeze, while what looks like an easy matchup -- like last year's Giants did in the preseason -- could be a tough one. 

Still, there are things you can take away from the schedule release, and that's what Dave Richard focused on in his breakdown Thursday. He goes through each team, highlighting their bye weeks, their early and late-season schedules, and their best early-season streaming options for Fantasy players, so make sure you check that out and bookmark that for your Draft Prep over the next few months.

Plus, we talked about it on the FFT podcast Wednesday night, with Jamey Eisenberg joining Dave to share thoughts about Cam Akers, Josh Jacobs, Jalen Hurts and more, plus plenty of reader emails:

PPR Mock Draft

We've done a few post-NFL Draft mocks, and our latest was Thursday. You can read Jamey's thoughts on his team and how that mock went overall, but I've got some thoughts on it, too. Specifically: I think I'm going to hate drafting from the No. 12 spot this year. 

I really did not love my team in this one, and I think it's because of the draft spot I ended up in. Or, to be more accurate, it's because of how I reacted to the spot I was picking from. Here's what my team ended up looking like: 

  1. Michael Thomas, WR, NO
  2. George Kittle, TE, SF
  3. Myles Gaskin, RB, MIA
  4. Robert Woods, WR, LAR
  5. Kyler Murray, QB, ARI
  6. Will Fuller, WR, MIA
  7. Kenyan Drake, RB, LV
  8. T.Y. Hilton, WR, IND
  9. Antonio Brown, WR, TB
  10. Rondale Moore, WR, ARI
  11. Mike Williams, WR, LAC
  12. Nyheim Hines, RB, IND
  13. Chuba Hubbard, RB, CAR
  14. Tre'Quan Smith, WR, NO
  15. Broncos, DST, DEN

Okay, so I don't hate it -- I got my No. 2 QB, WR, and TE, plus another top-10 WR, which isn't bad. The problem is, picking from the end forces you to make difficult choices, and I think I chose wrong in at least a few places. 

Some might view Thomas in the first round as a reach. I don't agree, but I think he was the wrong pick here. He is my No. 2 WR, but in pairing him with Kittle at the turn, I passed on the second tier of elite RB. By the time the draft get back to me at Pick 36, the well was pretty dry at RB -- my top remaining options were Gaskin, David Montgomery, J.K. Dobbins, and Josh Jacobs. None of them are necessarily bad options, but I don't love any of them, and none of them were my top players on the board.

But, because I went WR-TE in the first, I felt like I had to go with an RB here, and that's where I think it went sideways. If you're going to miss out on the top 20 or so RB, you're probably better off pivoting to a Zero-RB build, eschewing the position for at least a few more rounds and making sure you were set everywhere else, including at FLEX, before going after RB. Picking from the 12th spot, I feel like I should have gone with either an RB instead of Thomas or I should have just punted on the position. Here's what those two starts might have looked like instead:

Elite RB

Zero-RB

  • Michael Thomas
  • George Kittle
  • Robert Woods
  • D.J. Moore
  • Kyler Murray
  • Will Fuller

In the first scenario, I've still got Will Fuller as my No. 3 WR, and I love that -- he's my WR21 despite missing Week 1. But, instead of Gaskin as my No. 1 RB, I've got Mixon -- he's my RB7. So, Mixon and Moore instead of Thomas and Gaskin feels a little better -- I actually have the Thomas/Gaskin pair projected for slightly more points, but I'm much more confident in Mixon's ability to reach his projection than Gaskin's.

Or, I could have had Thomas and Moore and ended up with Fuller as my No. 4 WR/FLEX. Would RB be a problem? Sure, at least at first. I would've been relying on the likes of Kenyan Drake, David Johnson, Leonard Fournette, or James Robinson as my starting RB, which is tough. But, given the fungibility of the RB position, it's probably better to be chasing that with late-round fliers or on waivers and ride with a core of my No. 2 TE, my No. 2 QB, and four of my top-21 wide receivers.

There are other places I might've made better decisions -- Murray in the fifth isn't a bad pick, but I would have a stronger overall team with, say, Jalen Hurts and Matt Ryan with my last two picks -- but this is why doing mock drafts early and often is so valuable.

I can have my rankings, and I know they're going to differ from everyone else's, and I'm OK with that. I have faith in my process. But, knowing how you personally rank each player is only part of the battle. It's also about having a strategy for how you want to build your team, how you want to approach each draft spot, and how you want to handle when things don't go your way. 

I didn't do that well here. Luckily, it's just a mock draft, I'll probably do 50 more before the season starts (in addition to probably a dozen real leagues), so I've got plenty of time to get it right. You may not be doing 50 mock drafts, but you definitely don't want to be going into your drafts that really matter cold.

Here's what the first three rounds of the draft looked like, and you can check out the rest of the results here:

Round 1

  1. Christian McCaffrey, RB, CAR (Heath Cummings)
  2. Dalvin Cook, RB, MIN (Jacob Gibbs)
  3. Alvin Kamara, RB, NO (Will Brinson)
  4. Saquon Barkley, RB, NYG (R.J. White)
  5. Derrick Henry, RB, TEN (Jack Capotorto)
  6. Jonathan Taylor, RB, IND (Dave Richard)
  7. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, DAL (Andrew Baumhor)
  8. Travis Kelce, TE, KC (Dan Schneier)
  9. Austin Ekeler, RB, LAC (Jamey Eisenberg)
  10. Aaron Jones, RB, GB (Meron Berkson)
  11. Davante Adams, WR, GB (Adam Aizer)
  12. Michael Thomas, WR, NO (Chris Towers)

Round 2

  1. George Kittle, TE, SF (Chris Towers)
  2. Tyreek Hill, WR, KC (Adam Aizer)
  3. A.J. Brown, WR, TEN (Meron Berkson)
  4. Nick Chubb, RB, CLE (Jamey Eisenberg)
  5. Joe Mixon, RB, CIN (Dan Schneier)
  6. Stefon Diggs, WR, BUF (Andrew Baumhor)
  7. Cam Akers, RB, LAR (Dave Richard)
  8. Justin Jefferson, WR, MIN (Jack Capotorto)
  9. Darren Waller, TE, LV (R.J. White)
  10. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, ARI (Will Brinson)
  11. D'Andre Swift, RB, DET (Jacob Gibbs)
  12. Miles Sanders, RB, PHI (Heath Cummings)

Round 3

  1. Keenan Allen, WR, LAC (Heath Cummings)
  2. DK Metcalf, WR, SEA (Jacob Gibbs)
  3. Julio Jones, WR, ATL (Will Brinson)
  4. Patrick Mahomes, QB, KC (R.J. White)
  5. Calvin Ridley, WR, ATL (Jack Capotorto)
  6. Antonio Gibson, RB, WAS (Dave Richard)
  7. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, KC (Andrew Baumhor)
  8. Terry McLaurin, WR, WAS (Dan Schneier)
  9. Najee Harris, RB, PIT (Jamey Eisenberg)
  10. Allen Robinson, WR, CHI (Meron Berkson)
  11. Chris Carson, RB, SEA (Adam Aizer)
  12. Myles Gaskin, RB, MIA (Chris Towers)