Squawka NFL

Ultimate Team: The best players in NFL fantasy football in 2021

By Stuart Dick

Published: 15:00, 19 January 2022

There are two universes when it comes to the NFL – reality and fantasy. Across the globe – much like English Premier League fans who spend hours adjusting their Fantasy Premier League line-ups – NFL fantasy gurus put together a roster in the hope of winning a fantasy championship.

Fantasy is big business, whether it be the weekly competitions provided by betting outlets such as FanDuel and DraftKings which attract thousands of paying entrants, or the more traditional league format involving a set number of teams.

Here we take a look at the fantasy stars of the 2021 NFL season, using the traditional league scoring system as a guide, to pick our Ultimate Fantasy Team.

Quarterback: Josh Allen (Buffalo Bills) – 402.58

  • Average Draft Position – #26
  • Average Draft Positional Rank – QB2

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen is the leading points scorer at the quarterback position, in part due to his mobility which contributes extra fantasy value in the running game. Allen is eighth in the NFL in passing yardage, seventh in touchdowns thrown and is joint-third in interceptions – other QBs certainly have higher fantasy value as a pure passer.

Allen though has tallied a further 763 yards and six touchdowns in the run game, and remember the fantasy game values rushing touchdowns higher than TD passes and rushing yardage higher than passing yardage. This equates to Allen scoring 402.58 points this season, #1 among quarterbacks. He led Justin Herbert by over 20 points (380.76), with Tom Brady a further six points (374.74) back in third.

Running Back: Jonathan Taylor (Indianapolis Colts) – 373.10

  • Average Draft Position – #9
  • Average Draft Positional Rank – RB8

MVP candidate and Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor may have to watch the NFL Play-offs from the comfort of his own couch, but the second-year player can take solace in the fact that his performances in 2021 delivered fantasy players across the globe championship glory. Okay, he’ll take no solace in that at all, but it fits our narrative.

Taylor’s season, amassing 1811 rushing yards, 360 receiving yards and a combined 20 touchdowns, put him atop the fantasy leader list for the running back position by 30 points in the traditional scoring format.

Running Back: Austin Ekeler (Los Angeles Chargers) – 343.80

  • Average Draft Position – #15
  • Average Draft Positional Rank – RB11

Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler wins the race for the second running back position. In fact, the top four backs in fantasy points are all based in the AFC. While Taylor’s prowess came mainly in the run game, Ekeler is a more dynamic weapon who is equally adept in the passing game as he is as a runner.

He totalled 911 yards on the ground, 657 in the air and 20 total touchdowns. Ekeler’s fantasy productivity is on par with Taylor in points per reception competitions – Ekeler caught 70 balls compared to Taylor’s 40, recouping the 30 points lost through the traditional scoring set-up.

Wide Receiver: Cooper Kupp (Los Angeles Rams) – 439.50

  • Average Draft Position – #51
  • Average Draft Positional Rank – WR18

There is one name which sits alone at the top of the wide receiver fantasy leaders list, Offensive Player of the Year candidate Cooper Kupp. Kupp has amassed 20+ fantasy points in 14 of his 17 games this season, including six individual games with 30+ points.

Kupp’s 145 receptions, 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns are an incredible feat, and he really was in a league of his own in 2021 at the position. Kupp was on average selected around pick #51 in fantasy drafts with 18 receivers selected before him, including teammate Robert Woods.

Wide Receiver: Davante Adams (Green Bay Packers) – 344.30

  • Average Draft Position – #8
  • Average Draft Positional Rank – WR1

Alongside Kupp in the Ultimate Fantasy Team is perennial All-Pro Davante Adams. A total of 123 receptions in 16 games, 1,553 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns put Adams at WR2. broke the 30-point scoring mark on five occasions including in Weeks 14, 16 and 17 – just when the fantasy play-offs were coming to a conclusion.

Adams’ route-running ability is second-to-none, and with Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball he is always going to put up mammoth numbers – which bodes well for fantasy owners.

Tight End: Mark Andrews (Baltimore Ravens) – 301.10

  • Average Draft Position – #54
  • Average Draft Positional Rank – TE5

Lamar Jackson’s safety blanket was the top points scorer at the tight end position, well ahead of Travis Kelce (262.8) and Dalton Schultz (208.0). They were the only other players at the position to top 200 fantasy points in 2021.

A run of 28.5, 35.6 and 26.5-point hauls between Week 14-16 will certainly have contributed to many a fantasy championship. Andrews was – on average – the fifth tight end taken in fantasy drafts at pick #54. It’s almost a certainty he won’t be available that long in 2022.

Sleeper/Flex: Cordarrelle Patterson (Atlanta Falcons) – 234.60

  • Average Draft Position – #237
  • Average Draft Positional Rank – RB72

For the flex position we’ve picked a player who has come from almost nowhere to be one of the top fantasy players at the running back position. Cordarrelle Patterson is the Swiss Army knife of the Atlanta Falcons offense and was ranked RB72 prior to the season in terms of fantasy value.

Patterson is RB9 on the season, but in the majority of leagues he would have started the season on the waiver wire. Patterson was a hit/miss from week to week, however. He enjoyed seven 15+ point performances – including three over 20 – but also had seven sub-10-point games, including the vital Week 14-17 stretch. But value wise, Patterson was the steal of fantasy football in 2021.

Kicker: Daniel Carlson (Las Vegas Raiders) – 162.00

  • Average Draft Position – #118
  • Average Draft Positional Rank – K11

Kickers are a thing in fantasy too, and Daniel Carlson enjoyed a very creditable season for the Las Vegas Raiders. Ten double-digit performance is exceptional from a kicker in fantasy land, and his 20-point Week 12 jaunt against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving was a match-winner for many across fantasy football.

Defense: Dallas Cowboys – 177.00

  • Average Draft Position – #325
  • Average Draft Positional Rank – DST24

The Dallas Cowboys defense was a fantasy machine in 2021 with Trevon Diggs hauling in 33 points on interceptions and rookie sensation Micah Parsons adding a further 26 with his 13 sacks. The unit also scored a league-leading eight touchdowns and also added a ninth on special teams.

Again, Dallas likely was a waiver wire pick-up during the early weeks of the season and could have proved the crucial move for team owners to boost their championship chances.

A shrewd owner in a 10-team league could have feasibly drafted Jonathan Taylor, Austin Ekeler, Josh Allen, Cooper Kupp, Mark Andrews and Cordarrelle Patterson with their opening six picks in 2021. That team would have been unbeatable.

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