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Fantasy football: McCaffrey, Wilson among biggest busts; Taylor, Chase top breakouts

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Fantasy football: McCaffrey, Wilson among biggest busts; Taylor, Chase top breakouts
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver JaMarr Chase (L) makes a catch while under pressure from Kansas City Chiefs defender Charvarius Ward on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI | License Photo

MIAMI, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Christian McCaffrey tops my list of the most disappointing fantasy football players from 2021, while Jalen Hurts and Jonathan Taylor are among those who outperformed their draft spot expectations.

The 2021 fantasy football season came to an end in Week 17, giving fantasy football aficionados a chance to look back at which moves led to championships and which moves resulted in early exits.

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McCaffrey went No. 1 overall in most fantasy football league drafts last off-season and was productive when on the field, but failed to appear in 10 games due to another injury-plagued campaign.

He ranked eighth in terms of fantasy points per game among running backs, but wasn't on the field enough to carry any teams to the fantasy playoffs.

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The Carolina Panthers star didn't miss a game through his first three seasons, but played in just 10 of 33 games over his last two campaigns. He will be hard to trust as an early pick in 2022.

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On the flip side, fantasy football team owners who selected running backs much later in drafts likely had more success this season. Those who grabbed breakout stars Cordarrelle Patterson, James Conner, Leonard Fournette and Elijah Mitchell increased their chances of making the playoffs due to their low average draft positions.

Mid- to late-round running back value is something to keep in mind before your 2022 fantasy football draft.

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Deebo Samuel, Jalen Hurts and Dalton Schultz are among my other breakout stars from the 2021 fantasy football season.

Russell Wilson, Saquon Barkley, DeAndre Hopkins and Darren Waller are among my biggest disappointments -- or busts -- based on their production compared to their average draft positions.

Here are my top breakout players, biggest busts and overall MVPs from the 2021 fantasy football season:

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All-Breakout Team

QB | Jalen Hurts, Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow; RB | Cordarrelle Patterson, James Conner, Elijah Mitchell, Leonard Fournette; WR | Ja'Marr Chase, Deebo Samuel, Tee Higgins, Jaylen Waddle; TE | Dalton Schultz

Hurts was not among the first 10 quarterbacks selected in fantasy football drafts, but finished the season eighth in fantasy points per game at the position. His performances didn't always look pretty from a football perspective, but his ability as a passer and a runner gave a boost to his weekly fantasy football outlook.

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The Philadelphia Eagles quarterback should be treated as a low-end QB1, with Top 10 upside in good matchups, in 2022 fantasy football drafts.

Fournette ranked sixth in fantasy points per among running backs that made at least 10 appearances in 2021. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers veteran entered the season as a second-string running back behind starter Ronald Jones, but emerged as a fantasy football star for most of 2021.

Fournette was not among the Top 30 running backs drafted this season, but should be treated as a low-end RB1 in 2022 drafts.

Conner ranked just behind Fournette in fantasy points per game among those who made at least 10 appearances. The Arizona Cardinals veteran also joined Fournette as an eighth or ninth-round pick in 2021 fantasy football drafts. He should be drafted much earlier in 2022.

Mitchell was the best value pick at running back in 2021. The San Francisco 49ers rookie went undrafted in most leagues. He ended the season as the 10th-best running back, on a points per game basis, among those who appeared in 10 games or more. Mitchell totaled at least 100 rushing yards in five appearances and scored six times.

He will be another great second or third-round option in 2022 fantasy football drafts.

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Ja'Marr Chase of the Cincinnati Bengals and Deebo Samuel of the 49ers are among my other favorite breakout players from 2021.

Chase, the likely AFC Offensive Rookie of the Year, was not among the first 25 wide receivers picked in fantasy drafts. He ended the season as the fourth-highest average scorer among wide receivers. Chase should be a fringe first-round pick in 2022.

Samuel was likely a ninth or 10th-round pick in your fantasy football draft. He ended the 2021 season with the third-most points per game among wide receivers. The 49ers used Samuel as a running back and a wide receiver, which led to more fantasy production and lineup flexibility. He should be treated as a low-end WR1 in 2022.

Dalton Schultz of the Dallas Cowboys is my breakout star at tight end. Schultz went undrafted in most fantasy leagues. He ended the season as the sixth-best option, with a higher points per game average than T.J. Hockenson, Dallas Goedert, Kyle Pitts and many others.

Schultz will be a great player to consider as a value pick in 2022 fantasy football drafts, if your league requires starting tight ends.

All-Bust Team

QB | Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill; RB | Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Mike Davis; WR | Allen Robinson, DeAndre Hopkins, CeeDee Lamb, DK Metcalf; TE | Darren Waller, T.J. Hockenson

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Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen might not have met preseason fantasy football expectations, but they still managed to finish as elite quarterback options. The same can't be said for Russell Wilson and Ryan Tannehill, who were among the first 12 quarterbacks picked in drafts.

Wilson was a Top 10 quarterback selection, but finished the season with the 14th-most fantasy points per game among quarterbacks. He can no longer be trusted as an elite QB1, regardless of his matchup.

Wilson ranked sixth among quarterbacks last season in total fantasy points.

Tannehill also was expected to finish the season as a QB1 in 14 team leagues. He ranked 17th in points per game among quarterbacks who appeared in at least 10 games. Tannehill ranked eighth among quarterbacks last season in total fantasy points.

McCaffrey was my biggest disappointment at the running back position, but that was tied to his lack of availability. Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants and Mike Davis of the Atlanta Falcons were among my other disappointments at running back.

Barkley, once a Top 3 fantasy football option, entered 2021 with more modest expectations, but still was among the first 10 running backs selected in drafts.

He ended the season outside the Top 25 in fantasy points per game among running backs. He can no longer be trusted as an every-week starter, regardless of matchup, but can be targeted in the mid-to-later rounds in 2022 drafts.

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Davis was expected to receive the majority of the work this season out of the Falcons backfield, but lost carries to breakout star Cordarrelle Patterson. The Falcons' off-season acquisition was drafted as a low-end RB2. He finished the season outside the Top 50 in fantasy points per game among running backs.

Davis could go undrafted in 2022 fantasy football drafts.

CeeDee Lamb, DeAndre Hopkins, D.K. Metcalf and Allen Robinson each were drafted as WR1s in 2021, but none of them rewarded their owners with consistency.

Hopkins was among the first five wide receivers picked in fantasy drafts. He finished the season outside the Top 15 in fantasy points per game among wide receivers. His days as arguably the best receiver option in fantasy football appear to be over.

Lamb also finished the season as a WR2 in terms of fantasy points per game. He was among the first 12 wide receivers selected in fantasy drafts. The Dallas Cowboys playmaker could improve in 2022, but remains one of several talented options on the offense and could again underperform based on his high draft position.

Robinson was picked just behind Lamb in most fantasy football drafts. The Chicago Bears pass catcher finished the season outside the Top 75 in fantasy points per game among wide receivers. Robinson, who could change teams this off-season, can't be trusted as a fantasy football option.

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Metcalf was selected as an elite WR1 in fantasy football drafts. He finished the season as a low-end WR2. The Seattle Seahawks playmaker led the team in receiving scores, but only eclipsed 100 yards in one game. He can't be trusted as a high draft pick in 2022.

Darren Waller of the Las Vegas Raiders wasn't a major bust, but he did underperform based on his draft position. Waller was likely the second or third tight end picked in your fantasy draft. He ended the season with the fifth-most points per game among tight ends.

His third or fourth-round draft position proved too costly and likely hurt your team's chances of making the playoffs.

MVP Team

QB | Josh Allen, Tom Brady; RB | Jonathan Taylor, Joe Mixon, Austin Ekeler; WR | Cooper Kupp, Davante Adams, Deebo Samuel; TE | Mark Andrews, Travis Kelce

Early Top 14 rankings (not including 2022 rookie class)

1. Derrick Henry

2. Jonathan Taylor

3. Austin Ekeler

4. Alvin Kamara

5. Cooper Kupp

6. Davante Adams

7. Joe Mixon

8. Christian McCaffrey

9. Dalvin Cook

10. Nick Chubb

11. David Montgomery

12. Justin Jefferson

13. Ja'Marr Chase

14. Najee Harris

This week in the National Football League

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (R) celebrates with the fans around Heinz Field following the 26-14 win against the Cleveland Browns in Pittsburgh on Monday. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo

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