2021 Season in Review: Players on the Most Playoff and Championship Rosters
With another fantasy season in the books, some managers are ready for some time off, while others know the grind never stops. For those of us interested in digging into the data from this year — either to pat ourselves on the back for good calls, or to start spotting trends that might help us next year — let’s dig into the players on the most playoff and championship rosters.
Players on the Most Playoff Rosters
These players frequently appeared on playoff rosters this season. Note that the percentages below are the share of playoff teams that featured each player, not the percentage of rosters with each player that went to the playoffs. In a 10-person league, only 10% of the rosters could have had a given player on them; that number looks like 8.3% in 12-person leagues and 7% in 14-person leagues.
1. Cooper Kupp (WR – LAR): 14% of Playoff Rosters
In what should surprise absolutely no one, Cooper Kupp gave those who drafted him a huge leg up this season. From Weeks 1 to 14, he finished as the overall WR1 with 335.4 PPR points, beating out WR2 Justin Jefferson by a 73.2-point margin. Kupp averaged 25.8 PPR points per game (PPG) in the fantasy regular season, which was 4.8 PPG more than the next-best receiver, Davante Adams.
That said, Kupp dominated more than just the wide receiver position in the regular season — he finished as the high-scoring fantasy player in PPR formats through Week 14! Of the top-10 fantasy assets this year, only six played a position other than quarterbacks.
Kupp wouldn’t have even cost you a first-round pick. According to our consensus average draft position (ADP), Kupp was often available as the WR17 in PPR formats. He often lasted to 44th overall, making him a fourth or fifth-round pick in most leagues. That, my friends, is a steal.
2. Jonathan Taylor (RB – IND): 13%
Like Kupp, Taylor led his position in fantasy production in the regular season. He compiled 308.4 PPR points through Week 14, putting him 31.9 points ahead of the next-best player, Austin Ekeler. Taylor averaged 23.7 PPR PPG, and while that didn’t lead the position (Derrick Henry and his 24.2 PPG did), it still was good enough for second place.
Taylor led the NFL in carries this season with 317, just 21 more than Najee Harris. However, he significantly outproduced his peers. Taylor compiled 1,734 rushing yards this season, good for the NFL’s best mark by a 529-yard margin. Also, it’s worth noting that Harris finished fourth in total rushing yardage despite his heavy workload.
Unlike Kupp, Taylor would’ve cost you a first-rounder. Well, probably. Taylor usually went as the overall RB9 in PPR formats. He typically went around 11th overall, which may or may not have been a first-round selection in your league. Taylor easily outproduced every back that went ahead of him, including players who stayed healthy for the full season like Alvin Kamara, Ezekiel Elliott, and Saquon Barkley.
3. Ronald Jones II (RB – TB): 13%
This may come as a surprise, but it makes some sense if you think about the numbers we’re using here. Sure, Jones finished as just the RB63 between Weeks 1 to 14. And sure, that means he technically finished behind a fullback, Kyle Juszczyk, through that stretch. Fantasy football is all about getting hot at the right time, and Jones was a worthy pickup for playoff teams.
The operate phrase there is “playoff teams.” These numbers came from leagues’ final rosters, so it makes perfect sense that teams then in the playoffs would pick up Jones. He took over Tampa Bay’s backfield after an injury to Leonard Fournette and racked up 154 rushing yards and a score between Weeks 15 and 17. That said, he definitely wasn’t worth his RB33 and 88th overall ADP — there’s a reason playoff teams could grab him from the waiver wire.
4. Deebo Samuel (WR – SF): 13%
Samuel didn’t lead all wide receivers in fantasy production, but he did finish an impressive fifth at the position in the fantasy regular season. Samuel fared even better in standard-scoring formats, where he finished as the overall WR2 because of his frequent touchdowns and rushing yards.
Kyle Shanahan’s multipurpose weapon even outproduced some receivers who finished ahead of him. The receiver had to miss a game but still finished third in PPR PPG, trailing only Kupp and Adams while besting overall WR2 Justin Jefferson and WR4 Tyreek Hill.
And like Kupp and Taylor, Samuel was a decent value pick. He ranked as the WR36 in ADP, usually lasting until the 84th overall pick. And yes, that was behind his teammate Brandon Aiyuk, who typically went as the WR23 at 61st overall. Yikes.
5. Amon-Ra St. Brown (WR – DET): 12%
St. Brown didn’t do much at the start of the year. Between Weeks 1 and 12, the rookie ranked as just the WR62 in PPR, behind the likes of Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards. He even finished his Week 7 appearance with zero targets. I suspect the rookie could be found on most waiver wires by that point in the season.
However, St. Brown delivered for those bold enough to trust him in the final two weeks of the regular season. Between Weeks 13 and 14, St. Brown reeled in 18 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown, good for the overall WR8 through that span. That may have been just enough to push his managers into the fantasy playoffs.
While those who drafted St. Brown would’ve had to wait awhile to secure a return, he wouldn’t have cost you that much to take. St. Brown was the WR72 in PPR ADP this year, and he usually lasted until roughly the 211st overal selection, right around the likes of Gabriel Davis, Jamison Crowder, and Christian Kirk.
Players on the Most Championship Rosters
These players frequently appeared on championship rosters this season. Note that the percentages below are the share of championship teams that featured each player, not the percentage of rosters with each player that went to the championship. In a 10-person league, only 10% of the rosters could have had a given player on them; that number looks like 8.3% in 12-person leagues and 7% in 14-person leagues.
1. Amon-Ra St. Brown (WR – DET): 23% of Championship Rosters
Did you think we were done talking about St. Brown? After a strong finish to the fantasy regular season, Detroit’s rookie wideout just kept producing. He caught 25 passes for 292 yards and three touchdowns between Weeks 15 and 17, the standard playoff stretch. He also added 47 rushing yards and another score on five carries. That yielded him an overall WR1 finish across those three weeks. While St. Brown entered Week 13 as the overall WR62 in PPR formats, he ended the full season as the overall WR24, beating out guys like Terry McLaurin and Amari Cooper.
St. Brown didn’t finish as the top fantasy asset between Weeks 15 though 17. That honor belongs to Joe Burrow, who recorded 971 passing yards and eight passing touchdowns in two weeks against the Ravens and Chiefs. However, St. Brown did finish as the top skill-position player, and he trailed only Burrow.
Perhaps more impressively, St. Brown delivered despite Detroit’s struggles at quarterback. Of his three playoff games, only one came with usual starter Jared Goff under center; journeyman Tim Boyle started his other two playoff games. As we approach the 2022 season, St. Brown may remind drafters of a second-year Terry McLaurin.
2. Cooper Kupp (WR – LAR): 22%
While I’m surprised that St. Brown dethroned Kupp, I’m not surprised to see that it was quite close. Like St. Brown, Kupp strung together three fantastic games in the playoffs. He caught 25 passes for 340 yards and three scores, although unlike St. Brown, he didn’t add much on the ground — just five yards on two carries. He finished as the overall WR3 through that stretch, trailing St. Brown and the next wide receiver on this list. Like St. Brown, he trailed only one player from another position: Burrow.
Kupp had the luxury of having an elite quarterback (Matthew Stafford) under center. However, Stafford isn’t so elite as to truly blow out opponents, as the Rams played close games with the Seahawks, Vikings, and Ravens, which kept Kupp involved in the game script. Kupp’s ADP should skyrocket heading into next season, but fantasy drafters should remind themselves that Kupp was on such a huge share of championship rosters just as much because of his draft-day value as his actual fantasy production.
3. Mark Andrews (TE – BAL): 20%
Here he is. Andrews led all tight ends in playoff scoring (although Travis Kelce‘s absence in Week 15 certainly helped) and even finished fifth overall in playoff scoring. He racked up 350 receiving yards and three touchdowns on 24 catches on his way to Baltimore’s single-season receiving record. He did so after a strong regular-season campaign that also saw lead the position with 207.6 points, edging out Kelce by a 12.7-point margin.
Like St. Brown, Andrews produced without his starting quarterback. The Baltimore Ravens trotted out backup Tyler Huntler and third-stringer Josh Johnson between Weeks 15 and 17, but that couldn’t stop Andrews from stuffing the stat sheet.
Tight end is always a top-heavy mess, and Andrews rewarded drafters who spent a relatively early pick on him this year. He entered the year at TE5 in ADP, behind Kelce, Darren Waller, George Kittle, and Kyle Pitts. He usually went off the board at around 49th overall, slotting him between mid-range running backs like Myles Gaskin and solid receiving options like Kupp, Tyler Lockett, and Adam Thielen. Andrews will certainly cost drafters a bit more next year, but fantasy managers would behoove themselves to spend up on this position early.
4. Davante Adams (WR – GB): 20%
Adams is the only first-round selection to qualify for the championship portion of this list. Last year’s WR1, fantasy managers who took Adams knew (or should’ve known) that they were chasing Adams’ unsustainable 2020 production by taking him early. However, Adams mostly delivered. He caught 27 passes for 294 yards and four scores in the fantasy playoffs, good for a WR2 finish and the third-most total playoff points.
However, Adams was slightly less dominant in the fantasy regular season. He recorded 252.4 PPR points between Weeks 1 and 14, good for a WR3 finish, but slightly below what he produced last season. For some perspective, Adams compiled 287.4 PPR points between Weeks 1 and 14 last season — and he did so despite missing Weeks 1 and 2!
Unlike St. Brown and Andrews, Adams didn’t have any quarterback troubles to worry about. With Aaron Rodgers possibly on his way out of Green Bay, managers thinking about drafting Adams with an early pick next year should approach with caution.
5. Deebo Samuel (WR – SF): 19%
We’ll wrap things up with Deebo again. The versatile rushing and receiving weapon caught 16 passes for 282 yards and a score in the fantasy playoffs, and he added another 80 yards and a score on the ground. Those numbers yielded him a WR5 finish between Weeks 15 and 17, and he finished as the 10th player overall.
Of the nine players who beat out Samuel in the playoffs, four were quarterbacks: Burrow, Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, and Dak Prescott. The only skill-position player to outscore him, Ja’Marr Chase, slots in right below. Samuel should shoot up draft boards this offseason, especially since he produced despite instability under center — both Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance started fantasy playoff games for the 49ers.
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you navigate your season. From our Start/Sit Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup, based on accurate consensus projections – to our Trade Analyzer – which allows you to instantly find out if a trade offer benefits you or your opponent – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.