The 2021 fantasy football season has reached its end with the conclusion of Week 17 in the NFL.
For the most fortunate of owners, it was capped by the prize and bragging rights that come with a fantasy football championship. For others, perhaps a few draft-day mistakes or a key injury impacted how the season played out.
As we’ve done throughout the past 17 weeks, here are some winners, losers and surprises upon season’s end. Of note, the statistics included are courtesy of SportRadar.
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Indianapolis Colts
Taylor was the league’s leading rusher and highest-scoring running back in all of fantasy football. The second-year star did not miss a game en route to 360.6 points in full-point leagues, 46 points more than Austin Ekeler, who was second in scoring. Taylor was fed and fed and fed some more for the run-heavy Colts, best depicted by the fact he compiled a league-high 354 touches. The dual-threat back turned that into 1.02 points per touch and 1.77 points per target. Taylor led the league in rushes of 10 yards or more (48) and was unstoppable in the red zone, as he finished with 20 total touchdowns (!!), including 18 on the ground.
Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams
The arrival of Matthew Stafford allowed Kupp to reach unexpected heights, as he finished as the highest-scoring skill player in all of fantasy football (412.9 points). Kupp was the lone skill position player to record 400-plus points, as he averaged a noteworthy 25.8 per game. Kupp scored 80 points more than Davante Adams, the second highest-scoring wideout, while seeing 22 more targets than the Packers receiver. Kupp finished the season with 141 touches and 1,857 yards of offense, which were also league highs.
Mark Andrews, TE, Baltimore Ravens
Andrews finished as the highest-scoring tight end, and he did so convincingly by recording nearly 40 points more than the second player at the position (Travis Kelce). Andrews entered the season as the fourth or fifth tight end off of many draft boards, behind Kelce, George Kittle, Darren Waller and perhaps Kyle Pitts. Andrews led the position group in targets per game (8.6 with Kelce), explosive receptions of 16 or more yards (28) and touchdowns (nine). He earned his first 1,000-yard season, with 99 receptions on 138 targets for 1,276 yards in 16 games.
Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
Barkley was hamstrung by the Giants’ abysmal offense, and injuries limited him to 12 games. Barkley, who entered the year as a top-10 running back, finished 32nd in total scoring. That is impacted by injuries, but the fact Barkley averaged 11.7 points per game in full-point leagues — which ranks RB31 — shows even when he was on the field, he wasn’t producing like a high-end running back. He finished outside the top 100 running backs in points per touch behind just 800 yards of offense and four touchdowns.
Darren Waller, TE, Las Vegas Raiders
Waller likely was selected with a third or high fourth-round pick by fantasy managers, but he failed to produce like one. Waller concluded third among tight ends in targets per game (8.4) but caught just 63% of the balls thrown his way. He recorded just two touchdowns in 10 games to hinder his fantasy production. Waller averaged 12.93 points per contest, but, due to missing time, finished as TE16 on the season behind 53 receptions for 643 yards.
Owners who took a top-3 running back
An extensive number of preseason draft boards had Christian McCaffery as the top pick, followed by Dalvin Cook and Alvin Kamara in some order. All three of those players finished outside the top-8 in total scoring among running backs. McCaffrey, who was a major disappointment given the fact he only played seven games, finished RB37 in scoring due to injuries keeping him off the field. Kamara and Cook, who each were impacted by injuries, as well, finished as RB9 and RB17, respectively. That’s not the kind of production you’re looking for with a top-3 pick.
Deebo Samuel, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Samuel was one of the great steals of the draft given that many fantasy owners thought Brandon Aiyuk would be the go-to playmaker for the 49ers. Samuel finished as the third highest-scoring receiver behind Kupp and Adams while edging Justin Jefferson. Samuel averaged 20.7 points per contest while playing 15 games. The third-year wideout surpassed 1,700 yards of offense with 13 touchdowns (seven rushing).
James Conner, RB, Arizona Cardinals
Conner, perhaps shockingly, finished as the eighth highest-scoring running back in all of fantasy football while playing 14 games. And he did so while being led by his impact in the red zone, as he finished with 16 total touchdowns, behind only Taylor and Ekeler. Conner also compiled more than 1,000 yards of offense while stepping up in the absence of fellow Arizona running back Chase Edmonds. Conner, who was a late-round pick, turned into a lineup mainstay each and every week.
Honorable mention: Cordarrelle Patterson