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7 Players to Be Thankful For in 2021 (Fantasy Football)

by Matt Barbato | @realmattbarbato | Featured Writer
Nov 25, 2021
Deebo Samuel

Thanksgiving serves as an annual reminder to never take things for granted.

Just think back to where we were a year ago when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted our holidays and took away some of the joy associated with them. Be sure to cherish the time you spend with family and friends during Thanksgiving and the entire holiday season. And of course, enjoy some great food and hopefully some great football.

Speaking of football, Thanksgiving also marks the beginning of the home stretch of the fantasy football season. The extra week added to the regular season extends things a bit. But if you ask me, things start to get serious when the Detroit Lions kick off Thursday afternoon.

Regardless of how your season is going, there are probably some players you’re thankful for. Here are the seven players we should give thanks to when we sit down for turkey.

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Jonathan Taylor (RB – IND)
Maybe Taylor’s Week 11 performance alone justifies him being on this list. But in a season where stud tailbacks Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook, Saquon Barkley, Nick Chubb, Derrick Henry, and Aaron Jones have all missed time, Taylor has been a constant. He’s in prime position to finish as the RB1 and could be the fantasy football MVP depending on his play down the stretch.

Taylor is awesome, and I’m thankful that Frank Reich finally figured that out.

Cooper Kupp (WR – LAR)
We all knew Kupp was a really good player. But who saw this coming? Kupp’s caught at least seven passes in every game but one. He’s a target monster who’s making the most of all the opportunities Matthew Stafford gives him. If not for Taylor’s recent emergence, Kupp would be the heavy frontrunner for fantasy MVP honors. Hopefully, he can keep the momentum and carry his managers to a title.

Cordarrelle Patterson (RB – ATL)
Patterson’s season might be the best story of the 2021 season. The versatile weapon was a complete afterthought for fantasy football. Then he scored twice in Week 2 and raised eyebrows. Then he scored three receiving touchdowns in Week 4, and has been a fixture in starting lineups ever since.

We’re thankful for you, Cordarrelle. And we’re hopeful you’ll return from injury in Week 12.

Deebo Samuel (WR – SF)
As someone who drafted Deebo Samuel in a ton of leagues last year, I knew he had the talent. But coming into the 2021 season, Samuel was an afterthought. He was a late-round flier. It was supposed to be Brandon Aiyuk leading the 49ers’ passing game after an injury-plagued 2020 season for Samuel.

Well, Deebo has flipped that narrative on his head. He truly does it all for San Francisco’s offense, and his variety of work makes him an enormous fantasy asset. Imagine having a team with both Kupp and Samuel, which is definitely viable given where they went in drafts. Samuel is a beast, and he won’t catch us by surprise ever again.

Ja’Marr Chase (WR – CIN)
You always hope these transcendent receiver prospects pan out right away, but you rarely expect it to happen his fast. Chase has been a revelation for a Bengals offense that’s suddenly competent. The rookie out of LSU is poised to finish as a top 10 receiver, and will probably be taken within the first 20 picks of redraft leagues next season. And what’s crazy, Chase is probably worth it.

Jalen Hurts (QB – PHI)
Hurts is scraping the ceiling his backers hoped for. As of Week 12, he is the QB1. Now it hasn’t been all pretty for Hurts. He still has improvement to make as a passer. But Hurts’ dual-threat capabilities are rare for the position, and he may finish the year in the same conversation as Lamar Jackson for the best dual-threat passer in the league.

Pat Friermuth (TE – PIT)
This one might raise your eyebrows, but hear me out here. Tight end is a dumpster fire. It’s a position I admit I’m not thankful for. Even Travis Kelce is having an off-year by his standards. But in a world filled with disappointments like T.J. Hockenson, Noah Fant, Dallas Goedert and Tyler Higbee, Friermuth stands out as a potentially exciting option for years to come. He’s only the TE15 right now, but he’s becoming one of Ben Roethlisberger‘s favorite targets and has scored a touchdown in three of his last four games.

I’m thankful for a player who gives me hope at such a hopeless position.

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Matt Barbato is a featured writer for FantasyPros. For more from Matt, check out his archive and follow him @RealMattBarbato