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With the 2021 Fantasy Football season behind us, it is time to take a look back at the players who helped us win a fantasy football championship.
Similar to life, fantasy football should be easy. However, oftentimes, it’s not. With all the twists, turns, and curveballs, there are plenty of bumps in the road to hinder us from getting where we need to be.
In fantasy, those hurdles normally come in the form of injuries, bye weeks, poor coaching decisions, and in the past two seasons, COVID-19.
If you ask me, recent fantasy football championships taste that much sweeter now more than ever because of all of the unknowns.
While we, as fantasy managers, take all the credit, we probably shouldn’t. Sure, we manage our rosters and set the lineups, but players still need to play and produce those fantasy points that ultimately put us over the top.
Today, I am going to reveal my All-Fantasy Team for the 2021 Fantasy Football campaign focusing on the top fantasy football assets from the year that was.
I warn you, though, I will be biased. I will not just focus on fantasy points. I will take into consideration a player’s average draft position (ADP) and situation, as well.
If you don’t believe, me, just take a look at my 2021 All-Sleepers Team.
*I used Fantasy Data’s ADP for this article.
Best Fantasy Quarterbacks 2021
Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
Josh Allen finished as the No. 1 fantasy quarterback and was selected second off the board in terms of ADP.
In the past three seasons, Allen has finished as a top-six fantasy quarterback with back-to-back seasons as at No. 1 overall.
While Allen threw for fewer yards (4,168) and touchdowns (34) in 2021 than he did in 2020 (4,544 and 37), he was a greater weapon with his legs this season. Allen rushed for 700 yards and six touchdowns this season while running for 421 and eight last year.
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Allen also threw five more picks but lost three fewer fumbles. In the end, the numbers worked themselves out.
No matter how he got there, Allen was the bonafide No. 1 fantasy quarterback this season, doing so despite a regression season from Stefon Diggs, but getting a leap from Dawson Knox, the stability of Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley, and more flashing from Gabriel Davis, who is a rising star in this league.
Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I don’t know how many more times fantasy managers are going to overlook Tom Brady, but it happens an awful lot. Brady’s draft ADP was QB9. He finished 2021 as the QB3.
While fantasy managers are chasing rushing upside, the GOAT is getting the job done and winning people fantasy championships.
Sure, Brady’s ADP was warranted. He was the QB8 last season in Tampa, but all Brady does is exceed expectations. Even with injuries to his pass-catchers this season — Rob Gronkowski, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown all missed time — Brady still found a way to pop in fantasy with as much rushing upside as Penei Sewell has.
If Brady remains with the Buccaneers and they keep their offense intact, don’t try to be the first one to be right when trying to write off Brady due to his age. Draft him accordingly in 2022.
Best Fantasy QB Honorable Mentions
- Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
- Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers
Best Fantasy Running Backs 2021
Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts
Move over, Christian McCaffrey. We have a new de facto 1.1 in fantasy football and his name is Jonathan Taylor.
We all know that running back is a difficult position to value. Some overvalue it because of its scarcity and injury history, others devalue the position with their irresponsible (to me) zero-RB strategies.
If you drafted Taylor, you did well for yourself.
Taylor was the 11th running back off the board in fantasy drafts this season and finished as the RB1. He’s been in the NFL for two seasons and finished as the RB6 and the RB1. Taylor’s star is only getting brighter.
Taylor shouldn’t have slipped outside the top five. If you remember, Taylor’s ADP plummeted through the month of August due to preseason injures to Carson Wentz and Quenton Nelson. Fantasy managers panicked and jumped ship.
I was all-in on Taylor and happily took him at his value every chance I got. I had roster builds with Taylor and Ezekiel Elliott, as well as Taylor and Aaron Jones.
I was all-in on Taylor because he is next-level talented and plays in a run-centric offensive system. The Colts go as Taylor goes.
As great as Taylor is on the ground, he can also catch the football. He’s logged at least 36 receptions for 299 yards and a touchdown as a receiver in each of his first two seasons as a pro. His pass-catching ceiling has yet to be reached.
Taylor might have been slow again out the gate, but from Weeks 4-17, he averaged 25.3 FPPG to go along with his average of 22.5 FPPG on the year overall.
Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals
We’ve all been waiting for it. Some jumped ship because they never thought it would come. Others were helplessly loyal. But he has arrived.
In 2021, Mixon finally popped as a top-end fantasy running back. Drafted as the RB13, Mixon finished as the RB4 in fantasy and didn’t miss a game.
The upstart Bengals showed us signs of their commitment. Not only did the Bengals sign Mixon to a contract extension in September of 2020, but they also moved on from longtime backup RB Giovani Bernard in the offseason.
While the Bengals also rostered Samaje Perine and drafted Chris Evans, it was clear that Mixon was the guy - if you wanted to see it and didn’t have the blinders on.
Mixon managed 1,519 total yards and 16 scores. He may have stumbled a bit down the stretch, but ended the year strong, especially in the fantasy semi-finals (Week 16).
Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
I am going to take heat for putting Ezekiel Elliott on this list. It is even showing my Cowboys fandom to some. However, if you don’t think Zeke is deserving, then I don’t know what game you are watching.
Sure, Elliott is not the same player that he once was. However, he wasn’t being drafted as that guy, either. Elliott had an ADP that ranked from RB4-8 depending on the day.
Despite dealing with injuries this season, notably a knee injury that clearly hindered his performance in the second half, Elliott still ended 2021 as the RB6.
To be fair, he only ended the year averaging 15.1 FPPG, good for 13th at his position. But when the Cowboys’ offense was hitting on all cylinders in the first half and Zeke was still more or less healthy, he was giving us 17.7 FPPG from Weeks 1-10 with four 20-plus PPR point outings in that period.
Elliott may not have won you a fantasy football championship, but if you rostered him, he was a big reason why you got to the playoffs in the first place.
Best Fantasy RB Honorable Mentions
- Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
- Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers
Best Fantasy Wide Receivers 2021
Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams
Cooper Kupp. I feel like I shouldn’t have to say more, but then what kind of writer would I be?
If you’ve ever read up on Kupp or watched any of his segments on NFL programming, you’d know the dude lives, eats, and breathes football. In the words of Jon Gruden (yuck), Kupp is “a football player."
We all knew Kupp would see an uptick in production with the addition of Matthew Stafford, but I don’t think anyone saw 2021 coming.
Kupp ended the year with 412.9 PPR points. The next best guy, Davante Adams, had 332.8. Kupp dropped 80.1 more PPR points on the landscape than the second-best guy.
That’s just silly.
What I love even more about Kupp is the fact that he came so close to breaking Calvin Johnson’s receiving yards record (1,964) and Michael Thomas’ receptions record (149) but didn’t feel like he was deserving because of the 17th game. Kupp said, “it wouldn’t be right (to break the record)."
If you don’t love Kupp, do you even love football?
Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers
Deebo Samuel was one player I was wrong about, and I’m glad I was.
I avoided Samuel due to his injury history. I know you can’t predict injuries. However, I was just out on Samuel this year even though I have taken chances on Jamaal Charles in the past, and we all know how his career fell out at the end.
Sometimes, you’re just skittish with some players. And let’s get this straight, I love Samuel as a player. He is one of the most talented football players on the planet and can do a lot of things well.
My mistake was fading Samuel for his teammate, Brandon Aiyuk. While Aiyuk managed to salvage his season to an extent, Samuel was the better play, and it wasn’t close.
Samuel was also cheaper, too. Samuel was the 38th wideout off the board while Aiyuk was the 22nd.
One thing is for sure - I won’t be making that mistake with Samuel again. He is worth the risk.
Samuel finished 2021 as the WR3. While he did miss one game, Samuel was healthy for the most part.
He was also supremely productive. Samuel had 10.2-plus PPR points in every game this season. He didn’t finish with single digits in PPR once. Samuel also went for 20-plus PPR points in seven of those 15 games, including three games in the 30s.
Samuel didn’t just get the job done as a receiver, either. While he did hang a 73/1,310/6 line (115 targets) on the NFL as a receiver, Samuel also logged 320 yards and seven scores as a rusher.
Samuel had a ridiculous 2021 season. Point-blank.
Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers
I was never a Diontae Johnson guy. However, in 2021, I became one.
Johnson was the WR17 off the board in fantasy drafts, and he finished as the WR8. I didn’t see a top 10 finish coming. A lot of it was Ben Roethlisberger.
Like most, I had Big Ben written off despite his slew of weapons. A poor offensive line and a regressive arm didn’t help his cause with me either.
Despite the hurdles, Johnson showed up, nearly every week. While Johnson didn’t bring the highest ceiling — he only logged 20-plus points three times this season with a high of 30.5 — he did finish with 11.7-plus PPR points in 14-of-15 games. And in the one game he finished with single digits, Johnson scored 9.8 points.
While you need ceiling players to win a fantasy football championship, you also need your stability guys. Johnson was as stable as they come.
Best Fantasy WR Honorable Mentions
- Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings
- Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers
Check out more of our 2021 Fantasy Football Awards
- 2021 Fantasy Football Best Waiver Wire Pickups
- 2021 Fantasy Football All-Sleepers Team
- 2021 Fantasy Football All-Busts Team
Best Fantasy Tight End 2021
Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens
Did Mark Andrews come alive or what? I know he’s had the moniker “Mandrews" in the past, but he’s certainly earned it this year.
While everyone was drafting Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, George Kittle, and even T.J. Hockenson and Kyle Pitts over Andrews, the latter led all tight ends in PPR scoring with 284.6 points. That’s 35.2 more PPR points than Kelce.
Meanwhile, Kelce was drafted as the TE1 and as high as in the first round, while Andrews was the fifth tight end off the board.
Andrews also showed up when you needed him the most, popping for 26.5 PPR points in three of his final four games with a mixture of Lamar Jackson, Josh Johnson, and Tyler Huntley throwing him the football.
George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers
George Kittle was the TE3 off the board and ended the year as the TE3. That’s OK, right? Want to know what’s even more impressive? Kittle only played in 13 games while Andrews, the 2021 TE leader, played in 16.
Imagine what Kittle could do with a full season and stability at quarterback.
Sure, Kittle got off to a slow start early in 2021, logging fewer than eight PPR points in two of his first four games. However, once he returned from injury, Kittle took off. From Weeks 9-15, Kittle was the TE1 and averaged a dominant 20.1 FPPG.
He cooled off in the final two games of the year, but for where you drafted Kittle, you got what you paid for despite his ebbs and flows.
Best Fantasy TE Honorable Mentions
- Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
- Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills
Best Fantasy Kicker 2021
Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens
Justin Tucker‘s worst fantasy finish since 2012 is being the K7 in 2020 and 2014. He exuberates top-end fantasy football (and real football) consistency. For me, Tucker is a top-five fantasy kicker with ample appearances inside the top three.
You have to pay up for Tucker, but he delivers more times than not. Tucker was the second kicker off the board in fantasy this year and finished second in scoring.
Tucker also plays on a Ravens’ offense that scores the football at a high rate. You want to target kickers attached to top-end offenses that can get the ball into scoring position at will. You probably won’t get as many field-goal tries, but the extra points provide a high floor.
Oh, by the way, Tucker is a dual-threat, too. On top of providing elite kicking, Tucker is also an excellent opera singer. If you are watching his game film, you can also put on some of Tucker’s tunes to get you by.
Best Fantasy PK Honorable Mentions
- Evan McPherson, Cincinnati Bengals
- Nick Folk, New England Patriots
Best Fantasy Defense 2021
New England Patriots
When I think of a fantasy football D/ST, I think of the Patriots. Since 2021, the Patriots’ D/ST have landed outside the Top 12 in fantasy scoring at their position only one time. That’s absurd. Normally, they live inside the top six.
What’s more, the Patriots finished 2021 as the D/ST2 and were drafted as the ninth D/ST off the board. I didn’t go back to 2012 in terms of ADP, but despite the fact that the Patriots are a hit more than they are bust, they usually aren’t the most expensive defense in fantasy drafts. They are commonly overlooked.
The year before’s “flavor of the season" will normally be over-drafted as the No. 1 D/ST off the board and disappoint.
The Steelers and the Football Team come to mind as recent examples that fell flat after strong 2020 campaigns.
The Patriots D/ST are reliable, tough, gritty, and opportunistic. They also get the proverbial “Patriots bounce." What’s not to like, unless you are playing against them or are a fan of another team in the AFC East.
Best Fantasy D/ST Honorable Mentions
- Dallas Cowboys
- Indianapolis Colts