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The 2021 Fantasy Football Awards

by Matt Barbato | @realmattbarbato | Featured Writer
Jan 4, 2022
Jonathan Taylor

We’ve done it. Well, the vast majority of us have done it.

We’ve reached the end of the 2021 fantasy football season, and I hope it’s been a fun and successful one. As we put a bow on the season that was, it’s time to give out some end-of-year awards.

So get your tuxedos on and let’s dig into the 2021 fantasy football awards!

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The 2021 Fantasy Football Rookie of the Year

Let’s start with an obvious one. The 2021 season was a lesson and reminder that rookie quarterbacks typically don’t end up being viable fantasy football starters. With none of the top QBs emerging, this opened up the door for a skill position player to take the honors.

Javonte Williams, DeVonta Smith, Kyle Pitts, Jaylen Waddle, Michael Carter, Elijah Moore, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Pat Freiermuth, and Rashod Bateman all showed flashes of high upside potential. But none of them did what Ja’Marr Chase did. The LSU product is fourth in the NFL in yardage and third in touchdowns. He likely won you a fantasy title if you had him with his 266-yard performance last week. He’s a stud and is an easy selection for this award.

And the winner is… Ja’Marr Chase (WR – CIN)

The Heartburn Award for Most Agitating Player 

This was an easy one. I only had this player on one of my 11 teams, but he provided enough stress that it felt like I had him on all of them. A second-round pick in drafts this summer, this player somehow finished as the RB14 in standard leagues. But the ride wasn’t nearly that pretty.

First, he was hampered by a shin injury that made it impossible to predict his involvement from week to week. His running mate was frequently involved and stole a fair share of production before landing on the injured reserve. Then there were the fumbles that would result in benchings. And finally, this player wasn’t even on the field for you in Week 17 because he tested positive for COVID.

This player is talented, but he’s not worth the amount of money I spent on Tums because of him.

And the winner is… Antonio Gibson (RB – WFT)

The Matt Ryan Award for Excellence in Ineptitude 

The winner of this award has more single-digit fantasy performances than 20-point performances. He hasn’t thrown for more than 297 yards since Week 9. He’s thrown more than two touchdowns just once this season. He was drafted 15th among quarterbacks and will likely finish the season outside the top 20. If you haven’t figured out the winner by now, just check the award’s title.

And the winner is… Matt Ryan (QB – ATL)

The Rising Star You’ll Want to Draft in 2022

There are a ton of options for this award. But in this case, I’m planting my flag on a rookie running back who’s shown a ton of flash despite being stuck in an even timeshare. This player has made the most of his split workload to finish as a top 20 running back. And even better, the veteran he’s shared the backfield with doesn’t have a contract for next season.

And the winner is… Javonte Williams (RB – DEN) 

The 2021 One-Year Wonder 

This is an award for a player who might’ve been a league winner in 2021 but probably won’t see similar success in 2022. The winner of this award most likely went undrafted in your league and might’ve gone down as the best waiver wire addition of the entire season. While his top 10 finish in standard leagues was exceptional, it’s likely unsustainable. In fact, he was already trending downward, putting up just two double-digit performances in his final seven games.

And the winner is… Cordarrelle Patterson (RB – ATL)

The 2021 Average Draft Position Over-performer 

This is another easy award, as this player could merit consideration for Fantasy MVP. This player was drafted as the 35th wide receiver going in the eighth round of drafts. There was a receiver on his team who went roughly two rounds before him. You likely drafted him as your WR3 or WR4, and instead got the No. 2 wide receiver overall in standard leagues. Hopefully, he was a league winner for you.

And the winner is… Deebo Samuel (WR – SF) 

The 2021 Player I Was Most Wrong About 

Now is the part of the awards show where I poke fun at myself, because who doesn’t love self-deprecation? This player I was lower on than everyone else. And while I’m still somewhat skeptical of his long-term prospects, he certainly proved me wrong in 2021. He finished the year as a top 10 player at his position despite missing two games. And it turns out his dual-threat capabilities made up for what he lacked as a passer.

And the winner is… Jalen Hurts (QB – PHI)

The 2021 Player I Was Most Right About

Now it’s time for some well-deserved credit! Many people doubted this running back in the summer, claiming his unproven quarterback and offensive line were too big of hurdles to overcome. But I believed not only in this guy’s talent, I believed in the situation around him to improve. And it certainly did. He’s now a key playmaker on one of the most exciting offenses in football. And he’s your RB3 in standard formats.

And the winner is… Joe Mixon (RB – CIN) 

The Biggest Bust of the 2021 Season 

Obviously, players who suffered significant injuries aren’t considered for this reward, because that just isn’t fair. Nobody can blame Christian McCaffrey for getting hurt. Instead, I define bust as a player who grossly underperformed his lofty draft position.

While this player has an injury history, he only missed four games in 2021. He might be the most talented player in the league but has been dragged down by his team around him. And even though he went late in the first round of drafts, anyone who took the chance on him probably wasted a season because of him.

And the winner is… Saquon Barkley (RB – NYG)

The 2021 Fantasy Football Most Valuable Player

To me, there are two clear candidates for this award. The first candidate is Cooper Kupp, who leads the league in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns in what’s been a simply incredible season.

The second is Jonathan Taylor, who arrived on the scene as one of the league’s top tailbacks. He’s carried the Colts back into playoff contention, and I hope he carried your fantasy team to a title.

While both are extremely appealing options, I have to go with Taylor here. We saw so many top tailbacks like McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb, and so many others miss time because of injuries. However, Taylor was a constant from a health and production standpoint. And given the rash of injuries to top-end tailbacks in 2021, he was slightly more valuable than Kupp.

And the winner is… Jonathan Taylor (RB – IND)

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

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