We thought last season was going to be the wildest in the modern era due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but apparently, that was just a warmup.
At the midway point of 2021, we’ve had a tumultuous campaign filled with plenty of surprises, disappointments, and straight-up incredible performances. Don’t panic if your teams haven’t panned out as expected. There is still time to avoid crisis mode.
Let’s take a look at the mid-season state of the fantasy football season and how to process it all moving forward. I promise there won’t be the purchasing of sports cars, jet skis, or dressing way too young for our age in here.
The Top 24
Looking back on the first two rounds of 2021 drafts, we find some interesting results through the first eight weeks of the season. There were 13 RBs taken among the first 24 picks, and seven of those have delivered fantasy RB1 numbers in half-PPR points per game so far. Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook have missed some time and have fallen out of the top 12 in overall fantasy points, and with Derrick Henry now out for what’s looking like the rest of the season, he may or may not lose the crown considering he currently has over 40 half-PPR points on the rest of the RB field.
Alvin Kamara, Ezekiel Elliott, Aaron Jones, Austin Ekeler, Jonathan Taylor and Najee Harris are all performing as high-draft picks, while Nick Chubb, Saquon Barkley and Antonio Gibson have all come in below expectations in the first half of the season.
There were eight WRs whose ADP was among the first 24 off draft boards, and only three of them are fantasy WR1s so far. Davante Adams is the WR8 in half-PPR points per contest, with Tyreek Hill still WR2 and DK Metcalf checking in as the WR5. Stefon Diggs is just under four points shy of his 16.6 half-PPR points per game from last season; at 12.8, he’s the WR23. DeAndre Hopkins, Justin Jefferson and A.J. Brown have all had subpar performances based on their ADP, and are currently WR10, WR21, and WR26, respectively in half-PPR points per tilt.
Calvin Ridley will be taking some time off, and currently sits as WR53.
Travis Kelce and Darren Waller were the two TEs selected in the first two rounds, and they both sit in the top 10 at their position as TE1 and TE10, respectively, in half-PPR points per tilt.
After looking at these numbers, it seems we weren’t too far off as drafters this season, with just a few players at RB and WR way outside the realm of where they should be, and most either at expectations or just outside.
The Season of 'Next Man Up'
Injuries are always something we have to deal with in fantasy football, but 2021 has dealt us an extra-healthy dose of sidelined players ranging from one game to full season-enders. When combing the output of players across the board, there are some names we never saw coming crack into fantasy relevancy over the first half of 2021.
Rookie Elijah Mitchell, despite missing a few games himself, has taken advantage of his opportunity with Raheem Mostert on the shelf and is currently averaging 13.3 half-PPR points per game as RB30. In Kansas City, Darrel Williams has also made the most of his time as lead-back, putting up fantasy RB3 numbers, while both Chuba Hubbard and Devontae Booker are outperforming their 14th and 18th round ADPs as low-end RB3/RB4s with 8.8 half-PPR points each per contest.
While there are no major surprises at the top in the QB department, we’ve had plenty of injuries that have given us some great performances by surprising signal callers. Taylor Heinicke, filling in for Ryan Fitzpatrick, hasn’t been the most consistent, but is holding his own as the overall fantasy QB15, scoring over 20 fantasy points in four of his eight contests. Davis Mills is also all over the place but has given us two fantasy QB1 performances as QB6 in Week 5 and QB9 last Sunday. With Russell Wilson sidelined, Geno Smith has managed to put up 44.7 fantasy points over the past three weeks, which is good enough for QB7 in that time frame. Even Cooper Rush and Mike White got in on the fun, as they both cranked out starting QBs numbers in their first outings of 2021 in Week 8.
What’s Old is New Again
At 44 years old, Tom Brady has the most fantasy points of any QB through the first half of the season with 201.9. With drafters clamoring for rushing upside from their signal callers, Brady was the ninth QB off draft boards and is showing that age is just a number, and you don’t need to be mobile to lead the pack as a fantasy QB.
Father time has always been undefeated, but Brady is giving him a heck of a run.
Both A.J. Green and Emmanuel Sanders were written off this season on their new teams, and were afterthoughts on draft day as WR62 and WR57, respectively, leaving boards in the double-digit rounds. It’s been a rejuvenation of sorts for these two older WRs, as they sit back to back in half-PPR points heading into Week 9; Green is the WR30 and Sanders the WR31. Considering their draft spots, being able to slide either of these two in as your WR3 has been a pleasant surprise that will hopefully continue down the stretch.
The Baltimore Ravens lost most of their backfield before the season started and went retro to fill in the gaps. They are currently rocking the trio of Latavius Murray, Le’Veon Bell and Devonta Freeman in the backfield, who are all pushing or over 30, which is way past their prime in football years. Not only are they all on the squad, but they are getting similar work which has made it tough for fantasy managers, but is a great win for the old crowd.
Another team utilizing the elder-back-by-committee approach this season is the Houston Texans. At 31-years old, Mark Ingram was just traded to the Saints, but was there for seven contests, joined by David Johnson and Rex Burkhead, who are a combined 60 years old.
We’ve also seen a 30-year old RB on his fifth NFL team break out this season; highly unexpected, to say the least. Cordarrelle Patterson is now the de facto RB1 in Atlanta and the overall RB9 in half-PPR points on the season. Those who drafted him in the 22nd round or grabbed him early from the waiver wire are being handsomely rewarded.
Even 36-yea-old Adrian Peterson is getting another NFL shot this season with his sixth franchise, as he was signed to the Titans practice squad this week following an injury to Derrick Henry.
Who’s next: Alfred Morris, Frank Gore, LeSean McCoy?
TE is a Wasteland
There isn’t too much to say on this subject but it needed to be pointed out. Even Travis Kelce, who is still the overall fantasy TE1, is down close to 20 fantasy points from last season after eight games. George Kittle has been hurt and Darren Waller is also underperforming in 2021.
Rob Gronkowski, whom I should have included with the elder statemen above, saw a resurgence this season before getting injured, as his 12.6 half-PPR points per game sit third among TEs. Dawson Knox, Dalton Schultz, and C.J. Uzomah have all found a seat at the fantasy TE1 table, which was not on anyone’s radar during draft season.
The main takeaway here is that streaming TE weekly based on matchups is a viable way to approach the position if you don’t pay up for the elite guys, as the middle tier is rarely worth the draft spot, and you get more from a WR or RB there.
What to Do with the Downers?
We’ve reached the point in the fantasy season where every single point matters and we need to cut our losses no matter how much they sting. There have been some major flops this season tied to high draft capital and it’s time to let some of them go.
I’ve been waiting on a possible trade involving Allen Robinson before deeming him droppable, but with the NFL trade deadline a thing of the past, Robinson can be sent to the waiver wire to be someone else’s headache. You most likely spent a third-round pick on the Chicago WR thinking he was QB proof, but we didn't consider whether he was coach proof, as well. Robinson is WR63 in half-PPR points per game with a pathetic 5.8. There are better options out there to help you win moving forward.
Odell Beckham is another higher-drafted guy who has faltered as WR80 in that same category. He cost you a sixth-round pick, which isn’t as painful as Robinson, but he’s been hurt and non-productive; still a gut punch. You can wait around to see if he and Baker Mayfield ever get on the same page, or free yourself now of having to decide whether to start him each week.
The last player on this list is Julio Jones, who just can’t seem to make anything happen this season in Tennessee. He’s been banged up or non-existent and is averaging just 7.7 half-PPR points in the five contests he’s been on the field for. You can hold him for now, but his time is running out.
Let’s hope the final half of the season is as exciting and fruitful as the first eight weeks have been, and that the injury gods give these players a break down the stretch.
I’m choosing a glass-half-full approach to the second part of the 2021 season — won’t you join me?