To improve as a fantasy owner, it’s important to take part in a reflection period. Examine your process and see which players that you were targeting succeeded, which failed, and most importantly, why. Here are the results from last season to help us learn which players outperformed the market and wer 2021’s fantasy football MVPs.

To determine the value of each player last season, it’s important to evaluate players in direct comparison with their position, not by comparing their total points. For instance, Justin Herbert is very likely to outscore Stefon Diggs – but that doesn’t mean he should be drafted higher in one-QB leagues.

Quarterbacks – even mediocre ones – who start the entire season are likely to outscore most wide receivers. Therefore, we need to evaluate how much more (or less) each player scored compared to the average at their position.

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

TL;DR:

  • To find fantasy MVPs it is important to find baseline points for each position, or else it becomes impossible to compare position against position
  • 2021 was a down year for QB scoring
  • Cooper Kupp was the most valuable fantasy football player of 2021
  • Depending on whether you sort by total points or points per game, the other most valuable players were Derrick Henry, Davante Adams, Jonathan Taylor, and Deebo Samuel
  • Mark Andrews was the 7th most valuable player overall and the 2021’s most valuable TE

Points Above Average

To gain a baseline or average at each position, I use Fantasy Douche’s old baselines (from an article that is no longer available on the old Rotoworld) with Apex’s lineup and scoring settings. Apex utilizes PPR Scoring and weekly lineups of QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, TE, Flex, K, and D. Defense and kickers were excluded from this study as they generally maintain little year-to-year predictability.

Below are the baselines for each position and their averages per game and for the entire season.

QB RB WR TE
Baseline 16 43 60 18
Average Season 312.3 193.03 201.82 175.82
Average Per Game 19.82 14.02 13.4 11.55

The Baseline above refers to the number of players included in the average. The average season finds a replacement-level value for the entire season. The average per game is a replacement-level value for each position per game.

Even when comparing players by position, there is still the question of whether to compare them by points per game or for the entire season. Players who missed any time are not going to be viewed in a favorable light if we’re comparing players by the entire season – as it is evaluated by a player’s total points for the entire season. It is important to include the per-game metric because of the high rate of injuries among NFL players, otherwise, a complete picture of the fantasy landscape would not be reflected in the data.

The table below is sorted by Points Above Average Per Game (“PAA PG”) to give us the opportunity to fairly rank players who missed time due to injury. I also included a column for Points Above Average for the entire season under “PAA S”.

Another vital part of figuring out who was the most valuable is how expensive each player was in terms of draft capital – in other words, their average draft position (ADP). The cost of a player is a big determinant of how much value they can provide. Players like Deebo Samuel, who are drafted at an inexpensive cost and produce at a high level, are league-winning players.

For this reason, the Average Draft Position (ADP) on Fantasy Football Calculator from the beginning of September is listed in the table below.

PlayerPOSADPPPRPPGPAA SPAA PG
Cooper KuppWR41.3439.525.85237.6812.45
Derrick HenryRB4193.324.160.2710.14
Davante AdamsWR6.4344.321.52142.488.12
Jonathan TaylorRB13.8373.121.95180.077.93
Deebo SamuelWR89.833921.19137.187.79
Austin EkelerRB8.5343.821.49150.777.47
Mark AndrewsTE52.8301.117.71125.286.16
Justin JeffersonWR22.4330.419.44128.586.04
Travis KelceTE8.2262.816.4386.984.88
Ja'Marr ChaseWR77.4304.617.92102.784.52
Leonard FournetteRB90.1255.618.2662.574.24
Christian McCaffreyRB1.2127.518.21-65.534.19
Tyreek HillWR10.6296.517.4494.684.04
Alvin KamaraRB3.8234.718.0541.674.03
Joe MixonRB19.2287.917.9994.873.97
Chris GodwinWR47.2242.417.3140.583.91
Antonio BrownWR72.7121.117.3-80.723.90
Josh AllenQB34.4402.623.6890.303.86
Diontae JohnsonWR44.9274.417.1572.583.75
Najee HarrisRB12.9300.717.69107.673.67
Stefon DiggsWR13.5285.516.7983.683.39
James ConnerRB96.2257.717.1864.673.16
Mike EvansWR37.8262.516.4160.683.01
Rob GronkowskiTE142.8171.214.27-4.622.72
Keenan AllenWR25.9257.816.1155.982.71
George KittleTE28.519814.1422.182.59
Justin HerbertQB69.3380.822.468.502.58
Tee HigginsWR61.3219.115.6517.282.25
Tom BradyQB77.8374.722.0462.402.22
D'Andre SwiftRB34208.916.0715.872.05
Mike WilliamsWR116.2246.615.4144.782.01
Adam ThielenWR52.3199.815.37-2.021.97
Jaylen WaddleWR99.2245.815.3643.981.96
Dalvin CookRB2.5206.315.8713.271.85
Hunter RenfrowWRUND259.115.2457.281.84
Robert WoodsWR35.1137.215.24-64.621.84
Tyler LockettWR48.4241.415.0939.581.69
Kyler MurrayQB41.3300.521.46-11.801.64
Patrick MahomesQB22.9361.721.2749.401.45
Nick ChubbRB9.9215.315.3822.271.36
DeAndre HopkinsWR17147.214.72-54.621.32
Aaron JonesRB7.522915.2735.971.25
CeeDee LambWR29.6232.814.5530.981.15
Brandin CooksWR102.9231.814.4929.981.09
Josh JacobsRB35.422615.0732.971.05
Aaron RodgersQB59333.320.8321.001.01
Jalen HurtsQB100.2312.220.81-0.100.99
David MontgomeryRB25.9195151.970.98
Elijah MitchellRBUND16515-28.030.98
D.K. MetcalfWR19.7244.314.3742.480.97
Calvin RidleyWR1871.114.22-130.720.82
Ezekiel ElliottRB5.3252.114.8359.070.81
Marquise BrownWR140.9226.314.1424.480.74
Dalton SchultzTEUND208.812.2832.980.73
Cordarrelle PattersonRBUND234.614.6641.570.64
Michael Pittman Jr.WR104.4238.614.0436.780.64
Darren WallerTE21.5133.512.14-42.320.59
D.J. MooreWR57237.513.9735.680.57
T.J. HockensonTE55.4145.312.11-30.520.56
A.J. BrownWR24.8180.913.92-20.920.52
Antonio GibsonRB15.6229.114.3236.070.30
Dak PrescottQB66.7320.620.048.300.22
Lamar JacksonQB50.924020-72.300.18
Amari CooperWR40202.513.50.680.10
Damien HarrisRB55.5210.114.0117.07-0.01
Amon-Ra St. BrownWR158.5227.313.3725.48-0.03
Joe BurrowQB112.4314.219.641.90-0.18
Kareem HuntRB53.211013.75-83.03-0.27
Darrell HendersonRB43.8163.413.62-29.63-0.40
Matthew StaffordQB85329.719.417.40-0.42
Darnell MooneyWR109219.712.9217.88-0.48
Dallas GoedertTE93.916511-10.82-0.55
Dawson KnoxTEUND164.110.94-11.72-0.61
Terry McLaurinWR30.3213.512.5611.68-0.84
Elijah MooreWR132.6138.212.56-63.62-0.84
Zach ErtzTE157.1180.710.634.88-0.92
Kirk CousinsQB160.9300.318.77-12.00-1.05
Kyle PittsTE40.3176.610.390.78-1.16
Christian KirkWRUND207.612.215.78-1.19
Henry Ruggs IIIWR123.984.512.07-117.32-1.33
James RobinsonRB29.1173.912.42-19.13-1.60
Noah FantTE79.21599.94-16.82-1.61
Corey DavisWR89.6105.211.69-96.62-1.71
Tyler HigbeeTE95.81479.8-28.82-1.75
Russell GageWR133.816311.64-38.82-1.76
Melvin GordonRB75.2195.112.192.07-1.83
Mike GesickiTE114.31659.71-10.82-1.84
Rashaad PennyRB137.9121.712.17-71.33-1.85
Hunter HenryTE149.7164.39.66-11.52-1.89
Tyler BoydWR97.3183.811.49-18.02-1.91
Javonte WilliamsRB52.7204.912.0511.87-1.97
Pat FreiermuthTE157.3151.79.48-24.12-2.07
Chase EdmondsRB60.4143.311.94-49.73-2.08
Clyde Edwards-HelaireRB20.4117.611.76-75.43-2.26
Chase ClaypoolWR61.1166.611.11-35.22-2.29
Sterling ShepardWRUND77.711.1-124.12-2.30
Jarvis LandryWR118.213311.08-68.82-2.32
Devin SingletaryRB91.2197.811.644.77-2.38
J.D. McKissicRB116.8127.911.63-65.13-2.39
Jakobi MeyersWR116.2186.310.96-15.52-2.44
DeVonta SmithWR77.6185.610.92-16.22-2.48
Russell WilsonQB69.4242.817.34-69.50-2.48
Darrel WilliamsRB150.319611.532.97-2.49
Saquon BarkleyRB12148.611.43-44.43-2.59
Logan ThomasTE72.253.68.93-122.22-2.62
Kendrick BourneWRUND180.510.62-21.32-2.78
Marvin JonesWR126180.210.6-21.62-2.80
Michael CarterRB76.1154.411.03-38.63-2.99
DeVante ParkerWR162.3103.510.35-98.32-3.05
A.J. DillonRB79.1185.610.92-7.43-3.10
Tony PollardRB102.7162.610.84-30.43-3.18
Michael GallupWR135.491.510.17-110.32-3.23
Jared CookTE155132.48.28-43.42-3.27
Brandon AiyukWR53.9170.310.02-31.52-3.38
Tyler ConklinTEUND138.38.14-37.52-3.41
Cole BeasleyWR150.9159.39.96-42.52-3.44
Van JeffersonWRUND168.29.89-33.62-3.51
C.J. UzomahTEUND128.38.02-47.52-3.53
D'Onta ForemanRBUND93.910.43-99.13-3.59
A.J. GreenWR156.6156.89.8-45.02-3.60
Tim PatrickWRUND156.49.78-45.42-3.62
Gerald EverettTE156.6117.87.85-58.02-3.70
Myles GaskinRB45.7173.610.21-19.43-3.81
Allen LazardWRUND142.59.5-59.32-3.90
Emmanuel SandersWRUND131.79.41-70.12-3.99
Ryan TannehillQB96.1268.415.79-43.90-4.03
K.J. OsbornWRUND158.59.32-43.32-4.08
Cedrick Wilson Jr.WRUND147.89.24-54.02-4.16
Odell Beckham JrWR69129.19.22-72.72-4.18
Miles SandersRB38.7117.29.77-75.83-4.25
Jamison CrowderWRUND109.79.14-92.12-4.26
James O'ShaughnessyTEUND50.47.2-125.42-4.35
Cole KmetTEUND121.27.13-54.62-4.42
Rhamondre StevensonRB121.3114.99.58-78.13-4.44
Marquez CallawayWR90.5151.88.93-50.02-4.47
Courtland SuttonWR85.7150.28.84-51.62-4.56
Carson WentzQBUND25815.18-54.30-4.64
Jimmy GaroppoloQBUND227.515.17-84.80-4.65
Dan ArnoldTEUND75.86.89-100.02-4.66
Derek CarrQBUND25715.12-55.30-4.70
Deonte HarrisWRUND113.18.7-88.72-4.70
Evan EngramTE150.9102.56.83-73.32-4.72
Rashod BatemanWRUND103.58.63-98.32-4.77
Jamaal WilliamsRB92119.89.22-73.23-4.80
David NjokuTEUND107.66.73-68.22-4.82
Devonta FreemanRBUND146.69.16-46.43-4.86
Jerry JeudyWR64.1858.5-116.82-4.90
Dontrell HilliardRBUND72.79.09-120.33-4.93
Devontae BookerRB155.5144.19.01-48.93-5.01
Jordan HowardRBUND62.58.93-130.53-5.09
Mecole HardmanWR100140.98.29-60.92-5.11
Kalif RaymondWRUND132.48.28-69.42-5.12
Kadarius ToneyWRUND82.48.24-119.42-5.16
Robby AndersonWR75138.58.15-63.32-5.25
Robert TonyanTEUND50.46.3-125.42-5.25
Teddy BridgewaterQBUND202.714.48-109.60-5.34
Brevin JordanTEUND55.86.2-120.02-5.35
Julio JonesWR4680.48.04-121.42-5.36
Sony MichelRB93.4146.38.61-46.73-5.41
Tre'Quan SmithWRUND87.77.97-114.12-5.43
Laviska Shenault Jr.WR85.91277.94-74.82-5.46
Kenyan DrakeRB102.9102.58.54-90.53-5.48
Marquez Valdes-ScantlingWRUND877.91-114.82-5.49
Gabriel DavisWR144.3125.97.87-75.92-5.53
Donovan Peoples-JonesWRUND109.77.84-92.12-5.56
Randall CobbWR159.793.67.8-108.22-5.60
Rondale MooreWR146.4109.17.79-92.72-5.61
Austin HooperTEUND92.55.78-83.32-5.77
Jamal AgnewWRUND767.6-125.82-5.80
Braxton BerriosWRUND121.17.57-80.72-5.83
Mike DavisRB43.1138.28.13-54.83-5.89
Taylor HeinickeQBUND222.913.93-89.40-5.89
Chuba HubbardRB127.6137.68.09-55.43-5.93
Zack MossRB83.8105.28.09-87.83-5.93
Jared GoffQBUND194.513.89-117.80-5.93

Negative numbers refer to players who finished below the replacement-level average.

Observations: 2021’s Fantasy Football MVPs

I wrote the same study last year – below is the change in scoring at each position.

QB RB WR TE
Season Change -16.39 5.68 -0.32 8.54
Per Game Change -2.39 -0.22 -0.61 0

After a huge year for scoring in 2020, quarterback scoring fell in 2021. The rest of the changes are negligible and difficult to draw conclusions from. Bizarrely, the top 18 tight ends per game had the exact same scoring average as 2020.

In terms of the player results from the table above, Cooper Kupp was 2021’s MVP. Averaging an impressive 12.45 points above average per game, he helped his owners amass 237.7 fantasy points above average over the course of the season. The most incredible part is his ADP landed him in the middle of the 4th round.

Jonathan Taylor was the second most valuable player for the entire season, finishing with 180.1 fantasy points above his positional baseline. Amazingly Taylor was also selected after the first round, meaning in 12-team leagues, each owner had an opportunity to select the two best candidates for 2021’s fantasy football MVP.

In terms of points above average per game, Derrick Henry finished as the second most valuable. Unfortunately, his season was cut short after eight games, but Henry was dominating before going down.

Davante Adams finished third in per-game points above average and Deebo Samuel finished fifth (behind Jonathan Taylor). Incredibly, in terms of per-game scoring, three wide receivers finished in the top five. If you sort by points above average for the whole season, Justin Jefferson makes four of the top six players wide receivers.

After sliding to the fifth round in drafts, Mark Andrews finishes as the most valuable tight end and 7th most valuable player when evaluating by either season or per game. Andrews’ numbers show what a significant advantage it is to have the league’s best tight end.

Using the season-long PAA, some of the best value picks include Mike Williams, Deebo Samuel, James Conner, Jaylen Waddle, Leonard Fournette, Michael Pittman, and Jamaar Chase. Interestingly, this group includes two rookie wide receivers.

You can toggle between the “PAA S” and “PAA PG” above to see who were the most valuable players last year.