Overtime Presenter & NFL Reporter
NFL Fantasy: Tom Brady, Cooper Kupp, Travis Kelce among the top-performing players at the midseason mark
Hannah Wilkes helps you navigate your way through the 2021 season in her weekly column; watch NFL Overtime with Hannah and Josh Denzel, as well as guests Phoebe Schecter and Kay Adams, Thursday from 9pm on Sky Sports NFL
Last Updated: 10/11/21 9:07pm
Sky Sports' NFL Fantasy Football guru Hannah Wilkes helps you navigate your way through the season in her weekly column where, this week, she picks out the top performing players at the midway point of the 2021 campaign...
Once again, Sunday taught us a lesson: what you think you know about football, and what happens on the field are two wildly different things. Upsets, surprises, capitulations, and dominant performances by guys named Josh Allen (just not that Josh Allen) all played a part as we hit the halfway point of the season.
To illustrate just how unpredictable the league is in 2021, consider this: the Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs and New York Giants all entered Week Nine with a .500 record or less and they all went on to beat teams who entered Sunday top of their divisions.
Form, essentially, means nothing.
There are 11 teams with a winning record in the AFC, the most in either conference through nine weeks since the 1970 merger, per NFL Research. In the current playoff picture, the Tennessee Titans and Arizona Cardinals would get the all-important Wild Card byes, the New England Patriots would sneak the 7th seed over the Chiefs in the AFC, and the 4-4 Falcons would feature from the NFC while the Seattle Seahawks watch from home.
It's a pretty sensational state of affairs and it is still likely to change a whole lot between now and January, with the extended 17-game regular season. But not only is it entertaining us every Thursday, Sunday and Monday night, it is also making Fantasy Football more of a rollercoaster ride than ever.
Consider the top fantasy performers by key position at the mid-point; I would venture to say that they are, for the most part unexpected (come for me on Twitter if you disagree and we can have a lively debate). I have run through them here so you can be as astounded as me (to an extent)...
Surprise Fantasy Successes
Quarterback: Tom Brady
The GOAT does not usually rank too high in fantasy drafts (we are all for those dual-threats QBs and valuable rushing yards) but Brady leads the league in touchdown passes with a solid 25 and was leading the league in pass yards until he had his Week Nine bye with 2,650.
His paltry 39 rush yards pale in comparison to QB2, Jalen Hurts' 494 for the Philadelphia Eagles, but he has still hauled in a solid 201.90 fantasy points and proved the revitalising effects of the Florida sunshine on the human body in the process.
Running Back: Derrick Henry/Jonathan Taylor
Yes, King Henry holds the top spot for now but he's on injured reserve, likely until January, so let's look at Taylor - 821 yards, eight rushing touchdowns scored, plus one receiving - who will almost certainly surpass Henry in fantasy points after a Week 10 matchup against Jacksonville.
Taylor had an inconsistent rookie year in 2020 but in a banged up RB group he has so far come through unscathed and is averaging a solid 20.71 PPG. There's been a whole host of mid-ranked backs coming up trumps so far this season, and even a reliable option in a Patriots jersey (Damien Harris) which might be the biggest surprise of all...
Wide Receiver: Cooper Kupp
For the purposes of this exercise I took a look back at wide receiver rankings ahead of 2021 Fantasy Football drafts and, as I thought, Kupp was consistently ranked outside of the top 10.
Kupp will not be overlooked again. Leading the league with 74 receptions, 1,019 receiving yards and 10 receiving touchdowns, he's got fifty more fantasy points than Tyreek Hill next up at WR2 (credit to him for still being up there fantasy-wise despite Kansas City's offensive troubles).
In my favourite titbit of the week, Kupp's dad will no longer be allowed to draft him "as a courtesy" in his fantasy league. The other players will no longer allow it and Mr Kupp Sr. now has to battle to claim his son along with everyone else. Fair.
Tight End: Travis Kelce
Kelce being the top tight end in the game is not actually all that sensational, so allow me to expand things and paint a top-five picture here:
1) Kelce (Chiefs)
2) Mark Andres (Ravens)
3) Mike Gesicki (Dolphins)
4) T.J. Hockenson (Lions)
5) Darren Waller (Raiders)
There was plenty of hype around Mark Andrews coming into this season; he had signed a big four-year extension and was feeling good physically, but just how crucial he has become to Lamar Jackson was perhaps unexpected as the Baltimore Ravens really expand out their passing game. His career-high 147 receiving yards, plus two fourth-quarter touchdowns and both two-point conversions, in the Week Five overtime thriller against the Indianapolis Colts was a true statement of intent, and he has shown consistency in a position group that is a fantasy headache every week.
Some moderately useful advice for Week 10
- The Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans and Giants are on a bye. I point this out (again) because in more than one league this weekend I was against opponents who had gaps on their rosters. Be better folks, be better.
- I am not going to tell you to drop Patrick Mahomes (am I?!) but his struggles continued against the Green Bay Packers; for a third week in a row he averaged under six yards per attempt and could not score multiple touchdowns against what was, on paper, a favourable matchup. In Week 10 Mahomes is against the Las Vegas Raiders, who are not only a divisional rival (added spice) but who also pressure opposing quarterbacks on drop backs more than any other team in the league. Mahomes has career lows this season under pressure in multiple key metrics. It's a divisional game, so form generally goes out the window, but food for thought.
- On the flip side: Derek Carr versus a Chiefs defense that is allowing the second-most fantasy PPG to quarterbacks? Yes please.
- While they have had a shaky couple of weeks, the Bengals offense has still been serviceable in Fantasy Football, so if you are after a receiver in the absence of Ja'Marr Chase I would firstly check Brandon Aiyuk's availability. You can get him in almost half of fantasy leagues (at the time of writing) and he has been getting a lot more work the last two weeks for the San Francisco 49ers who, at a disappointing 3-5 on the season, are basically trying anything!
- Elijah Moore is also getting some hype after a big showing for the New York Jets rookie receiver against the Colts last Thursday night. I'm cautious of him against a stingy Buffalo Bills defense short term, but in Weeks 11 and 12 the Jets play the Miami Dolphins and Houston. His widespread availability is the major upside in a tight spot in deep leagues.
Join Hannah Wilkes and Josh Denzel, with Phoebe Schecter and Kay Adams, on NFL Overtime, Thursday at 9pm on Sky Sports NFL.