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Grading the fantasy football landing spots in Mel Kiper’s first 2021 NFL mock draft

What are the best and worst fantasy landing spots for incoming rookies in Mel Kiper’s first mock draft.

Getty Images/Pete Rogers Illustrations

ESPN’s Mel Kiper dropped his first mock draft for the 2021 NFL draft Tuesday this week. It’s still early so who knows what the draft will look like, but I always enjoy reading early mocks just to get a sense of where people in the know think some of the top college prospects will end up. I also enjoy reading them to grade possible fantasy football landing spots because a) I enjoy grading things unnecessarily and b) I can never stop thinking about fantasy football. It’s a blessing and a curse.

I’ve run through Kiper’s first round mock and given a grade to each fantasy relevant player drafted based on their potential and how much I like that landing spot. I could love DeVonta Smith or Ja’Marr Chase but if one of them slips down to four and the Falcons take them, I won’t love that so much. Already plenty of receivers to feed in Atlanta.

Let’s begin!

1.01 Jacksonville Jaguars — QB Trevor Lawrence

Unless the Jaguars give up their pick bounty for Deshaun Watson, this pick is etched in stone. And of course it’s terrific for fantasy. Lawrence would be the tide that lifts all boats, pushing D.J. Chark, Keelan Cole, Laviska Shenault Jr., and Chris Conley all up in fantasy value. I would be buying HARD on Chark in dynasty leagues wherever I can because after a down year, he could easily return to the WR1 we saw in 2019.

Grade: A-duuuuh

1.02 New York Jets — WR DeVonta Smith

Welp, we’re two picks in and Kiper is already getting a little wild. Maybe the Jets will ultimately be trading this pick for Watson, or drafting their Sam Darnold replacement, but if neither of those things happen, taking a Heisman Trophy winning wide receiver is not a bad idea. I like the receivers the Jets already have, but Smith would instantly become the no. 1 target in an offense that is severely lacking one. This puts a lot of faith in Darnold, but there are parts of his tape that are really encouraging so hopefully being out from under Adam Gase’s crazy eyes will do wonders for the still 23-year-old quarterback.

Grade: A

1.03 Miami Dolphins — WR Ja’Marr Chase

It was clear from the 2020 season, the Dolphins need to get Tua Tagovailoa some help if they are intent on making him their franchise quarterback. I like DeVante Parker and Preston Williams a lot, but Williams hasn’t been able to stay healthy and Parker took a step back after his 2019 breakout. Now that is in part because Tua wasn’t as aggressive throwing the ball down the field, but that further shows he needs a wide receiver who can make plays all over the field with the ball in his hands. Chase can certainly be that player for the Dolphins, though my hype for him in tempered a little bit by what we saw from Tua this year.

Grade: B

1.04 Atlanta Falcons — QB Zach Wilson

You may think adding a first round quarterback to a team with an established veteran at the position might not have any fantasy repercussions, but you’d be wrong. If the Falcons take Wilson early, I fully expect Matt Ryan to take that as a person offense and pull an Aaron Rodgers and burn the 2021 season to the ground, posting all kinds of absurd stats in new head coach Arthur Smith’s offense. Or, if Ryan sucks it up, well in steps a rookie QB who threw 33 touchdowns and only three picks this year. But really I’m hoping for the pissed off Matt Ryan.

Grade: M for Motivation

1.05 Cincinnati Bengals — OT Penei Sewell

Yes.

Grade: Protect Joe Burrow at all costs

1.06 Philadelphia Eagles — WR Jaylen Waddle

Yes of course the Eagles should get one of these top three wide receivers given how abysmal their passing game was last year. Waddle has game breaking speed and easily would step into the Eagles’ no. 1 pass catcher role. Let me now take the rest of this paragraph to tell you, Howie Roseman and Nick Sirianni, that starting Carson Wentz in 2021 is a dumb idea after what Jalen Hurts showed in his starts this year. Don’t be dumb. Wentz = bad. Hurts = good.

Grade: A

1.07 Detroit Lions — QB Justin Fields

With the Lions set to trade Matthew Stafford, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them go quarterback at seven overall. However, it’s not really what I want to see from a fantasy perspective. Fields has plenty of potential and I think he could be a superstar in the NFL, but I don’t love him getting drafted by a team that might have Danny Amendola as their no. 1 wideout. Yea. Not great. For me to feel good about this landing spot, the Lions would have to bring back Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. or at the very least, add a major piece to their receiving room this offseason. Fields passing to Amendola and T.J. Hockenson doesn’t really instill a ton of confidence in his fantasy potential.

Grade: we’ll C

1.08 Carolina Panthers — QB Trey Lance

Now here’s a fantasy landing spot I LOVE for a rookie quarterback. I liked what I saw out of Matt Rhule and Joe Judge’s offense in year one and adding someone with as much talent as Trey Lance to an offense already with Christian McCaffrey, Robby Anderson, D.J. Moore, and Curtis Samuel seems like a wonderful idea. Obviously adding a rookie quarterback would put a ceiling on the receivers fantasy potential and it would take a couple of weeks to figure out exactly who Lance’s go-to guy was but for Lance himself, landing in Carolina would be ideal. I’d take him QB2 in all my dynasty drafts after Trevor Lawrence, no questions asked.

Grade: Trey A-nce

1.11 New York Giants — TE Kyle Pitts

I guess I understand the logic of the Giants doubling down on hyper athletic tight ends who can play all over the formation, but if you’re not going to move Evan Engram around the formation—he spent the vast majority of this time in 2020 lined up tight—why would you draft another tight end to not move around the formation. Plus, as a perpetual Evan Engram truther, I would not like this landing spot. I’d much rather the Cowboys take Pitts or Pitts makes his way down to the Chargers and Los Angeles just replaces Hunter Henry with Pitts.

Grade: Dn’t do it

1.15 New England Patriots — QB Mac Jones

As a Patriots fan, I’m all for the Patriots going quarterback here. As a fantasy fan, I wouldn’t be drafting whoever the Patriots have as their starting quarterback in 2021. Unless Bill Belichick just goes absolutely bonkers in free agency and brings in a whole bunch of offensive weapons, I don’t love the Patriots pass catchers, even with a healthy Julian Edelman. Sure in the long run Jones in New England would likely be good for fantasy purposes, but in 2021, there just aren’t any weapons for him to rely on. It would be great for Damien Harris stonk though.

Grade: Literal shrug emoji

1.19 Washington Football Team — WR Kadarius Toney

WFT clearly needs another receiving weapon alongside Terry McLaurin and Toney would be an extremely fun running mate. Toney can do a little bit of everything: catching the football, running the football, and even as a punt returner on special teams. There’s plenty of room in this offense for Toney to cook and we’ve seen Ron Rivera and squad get a little tricky with players like Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic. I think there would be a lot of potential for Toney in Washington.

Grade: B+

1.27 Baltimore Ravens — WR Terrace Marshall Jr.

Whatever Baltimore does this offseason, they NEEEEEEED to get Lamar Jackson some more pass catchers. Personally, I’d prefer them to do that via free agency and get like Allen Robinson to go alongside Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews but adding size via the draft isn’t a bad idea either. Marshall Jr. at 6-foot-3 would give Lamar a big body target to go get the football which is exactly what this offense has been missing. A wide receiver in Baltimore is a perfect landing spot so I am game.

Grade: A

1.30 Buffalo Bills — RB Najee Harris

This would crush all my Zach Moss stock but holy buckets does this make just a ton of sense. The Bills ground game was a mess this year and getting a legit no. 1 back who can play all three downs would do wonders to resurrect that part of the Brian Daboll’s offense. Now, I have to temper my expectations because Harris would enter a backfield already with Moss and Devin Singletary and that’s not ideal for fantasy managers—having to determine which of the three backs is worth starting any given week. Not fun. I think this is a great landing spot for Harris if we operate under the assumption he comes in and immediately stakes his claim on the backfield.

Grade: A+ in my dream world, C in the real world

There you go. Which of these landing spots is your potential fantasy football favorite? Let me know in the comments.