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The College Fantasy Football Awards (2021)

On Sunday morning, I awoke early to cast my votes for the 2021 College Fantasy Football Award winners for the seventh year. Luckily, I have amazing CFF colleagues to join me in the endeavor after a stupendous season.

I went to Buffalo Wild Wings the day before for the first time in nearly two years with two best friends to watch the Wolverines host the Buckeyes and follow my fantasy starters in other games. Needless to say, it was intoxicating when Hassan Haskins scored his fifth touchdown of the afternoon.

Returning home, I stayed glued to the television with my iPAD in hand to view the updated scores all night. When the evening ended, Tyler Algier sabotaged my chances to capture another ring when he plunged into the end zone a second time to catapult my opponent to victory.

It is difficult to decide which event was more exciting over the past weekend: winning an eighteenth season-long College Fantasy Football championship in 14 years managing a team or enjoying Michigan defeating Ohio State for the first time under coach Jim Harbaugh. Does it really matter? Despite only winning one CFF title this year, I am glad to announce the 2021 CFF All-American team and six award winners.

College Fantasy Football provides alternative-reality zealots, NFL Draftniks, and Dynasty and Devy owners a competitive advantage against their opponents. What are you waiting for this summer? Get off the sideline and into the game on Fantrax. We guarantee that you will not regret playing in a CFF league this fall.

The 2021 College Fantasy Football Awards Panel

I invited six of the foremost CFF experts—Nicholas Ian Allen, Mike Bainbridge, Eric Froton, Jared Palmgren, JD Yonke, and the CFFInsiders—to vote on their top three players in six categories. The results were tabulated, and the CFF All-American fantasy performers are listed below.

Cam Newton Award: The Preeminent Fantasy Quarterback

1. Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky (35 points)

2. Brennan Armstrong, Virginia (17 points)

3. Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh (5 points)

Salt in the wound for me personally having to write up Bailey Zappe as the top college fantasy quarterback for 2021. We knew the scheme coming to Western Kentucky under offensive coordinator Zach Kittley would likely light up the scoreboard where defense is optional in Conference USA. Yet. We overthought it a bit when analyzing this offseason, ranking Zappe in the QB 15-20 range.

WKU was bringing in 10-plus transfers on the offensive side of the ball, and I believed it would take some time to integrate all of the new pieces with the roster already in place. Zappe’s debut season with Houston Baptist didn’t necessarily yield the eye-popping results either. That analysis went out the window instantly as Zappe went on to throw seven touchdowns in his Hilltoppers debut, setting the tone for what would be a sensational year as he led the country in passing yards (4,968) and passing touchdowns (52). Bryce Young and Kenny Pickett–two quarterbacks likely to be in New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony–threw 12 fewer touchdowns this season.

What do we look for in the perfect CFF prospect? Upside and consistency, and Zappe provided all of that. At least three touchdown passes in every game this season and topped 30-plus fantasy points every single week. Bailey Zappe wasn’t just the best fantasy quarterback this season, but the top CFF player in the country and a league-winner for many.

Mike Bainbridge, @MBainbridgeCFF

Barry Sanders Award: The Fantastic Fantasy Running Back

1. Breece Hall, Iowa State (24 points)

2. Tyler Badie, Missouri (19 points)

3. Lew Nichols III, Central Michigan (15 points)

The illustrious Barry Sanders Award was given to the rightful winner: Iowa State’s Breece Hall. The Cyclones’ game-breaker narrowly lost the award in 2020, coming up only two points shy of Alabama’s Najee Harris. Rather than wallow in sorrow at his second-place finish, Hall put forth yet another fantastic stat line in 2021, finishing with 1,774 total yards and 23 touchdowns.

Hall was a model of consistency, scoring over 16 fantasy points in every game of the season. That’s the floor that he established, but he routinely went over that mark—he accumulated greater than 25 fantasy points in over half his games. If you made it to the championship game and had Hall on your roster, there’s a good chance you came away victorious after he erupted for 281 total yards and four scores. Great players come through when it matters most, and Hall certainly aced that test. It’s been par for the course for Breece, who would go down as a first-ballot CFF Hall of Famer if there was such a thing.

Missouri’s Tyler Badie finished closely behind in second place after narrowly edging Hall in total fantasy points and points per game. He burst onto the scene in a much-needed way for the Tigers, accumulating over 1,900 yards from scrimmage and 18 touchdowns as the sole creator on the offense. He was especially valuable in ppr-formats with 54 receptions on the season. Not bad for someone who wasn’t drafted anywhere near the first couple of rounds of CFF drafts!

Lew Nichols of Central Michigan finished third with 15 voting points. He was likely on a very high percentage of championship rosters after finishing the season on a hot stretch of epic proportions. From October 9 on, Nichols racked up 1,497 total yards and 14 touchdowns over his last seven games of the season—averaging a blistering 213.9 yards and two touchdowns per game. The fewest fantasy points he scored in the last half of the season was 28.3—it’s a hot streak that will go down in CFF history.

JD Yonke, @YonkersCFB

Scholar’s 2021 CFF All-American Team

  • QB Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky
  • QB Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh
  • RB Breece Hall, Iowa State
  • RB Tyler Badie, Missouri
  • WR Jerreth Sterns, Western Kentucky
  • WR Jordan Addison, Pittsburgh
  • WR Jameson Williams, Alabama
  • TE Trey McBride, Colorado State
  • FLEX Lew Nichols III, Central Michigan

As a teenager in the Eighties, I looked forward to Bob Hope announcing the AP All-American Team on his Christmas Eve special every year. As a teacher in New Haven, CT, I enjoy scrutinizing the game’s long-storied history as well as the All-American Teams by the Walter Camp Football Foundation. It is breathtaking to look at the teams, schools, and players over the past 120 years. Obviously, as College Fantasy Football grows in popularity, our hobby needs to honor the best gridiron players every season. Therefore, I present the Scholar’s 2021 CFF All-American Team.

While the Power 5 programs dominate television ratings and attention of the national media, Group of 5 teams is on equal footing in college fantasy football. On this year’s team, four players (Zappe, Sterns, McBride, and Nichols) generated spectacular weekly fireworks, and Western Kentucky elevated two players on the squad. Among the Power 5, only Pittsburgh produced two CFF All-Americans (Pickett and Addison). Iowa State’s Hall garnered back-to-back spots (2020 & 2021) on the team, and Badie and Williams were the only two members from the SEC. It is an honor to place the names of the aforementioned playmakers into the history books for all time.

John Laub, @GridironSchol91

Desmond Howard Award: The Finest Fantasy Wide Receiver

1. Jerreth Sterns, Western Kentucky (28 points)

2. Jordan Addison, Pittsburgh (20 points)

3. Deven Thompkins, Utah State (7 points)

When Zach Kittley was hired from Houston Baptist to serve as the Offensive Coordinator at Western Kentucky, he transformed a defense-first team that averaged a paltry 19 points and 164 passing yards per game in 2020 into the nation’s most prolific passing offense. This year the Hilltoppers finished first in passing yardage with an average of 423 yards per game, as the next closest team, UVA, was 30 yards per game behind them. They also finished second in the country by scoring 43.3 points per game, more than doubling their previous year’s output.

Front and center of this offensive revival was the QB-WR duo Kittley brought in from HBCU: Bailey Zappe and Jerreth Sterns. Sterns saw more targets, 156, than any other receiver while his 125 receptions were a staggering 27 more than the next closest wideout. Only fellow Howard Award Finalist Deven Thompkins eclipsed his 1,528 receiving yards (Thompkins had 1,561) while his 12 touchdowns tied for fifth-most in the nation.

All told, Sterns’ 354 ppr-scoring fantasy points bested second-place Jordan Addison by 25 points, while his 29.5 points per game average was two points per game more than Addison. He scored 22 fantasy points or more in 9-of-12 games while recording at least 32 points in five of them. Sterns is the deserving recipient of the prestigious 2021 Desmond Howard Award for the best College Fantasy Football wide receiver in the land.

Eric Froton, @CFFroton

Dennis Pitta Award: The Top Fantasy Tight End

1. Trey McBride, Colorado State (35 points)

2. Isaiah Likely, Coastal Carolina (12 points)

3. Cole Turner, Nevada (12 points)

As the position that is often treated as an afterthought in the CFF community, it was quite the change in pace when, going into the 2021 campaign, many analysts were declaring this to be the best crop of tight ends in years. Prospects like Cole Turner, Nevada were being drafted as high as the seventh round. Other highly-valued prospects included Greg Dulcich, UCLA, Jalen Wydermyer, Texas A&M, and Charlie Kolar, Iowa St, who could all be seen taken in the tenth round. With all the hype for tight ends, the top performers each have their own interesting story to tell at the conclusion of the crusade.

The undeniable No. 1 CFF tight end is Trey McBride. Not only was McBride unanimously voted No. 1 by all the voters, but he also had the most points at the position. McBride was considered by many to be in the second tier of TEs in the preseason, being drafted on average as the No. 11. However, one thing all analysts could agree on was that McBride’s target volume would be his most valuable asset, and what an asset it was. The Colorado State competitor finished the season as the No. 1 tight end in terms of receptions, at 90. The second closest was Zack Kuntz, Old Dominion, who got 70 receptions. That massive volume translated to McBride being the only FBS tight end to surpass 1,000 receiving yards.

An even crazier stat for McBride is that this insane volume carried him to the top tight end finish, despite the fact that he only scored two touchdowns (one of which was a 69-yard rush on a fake punt). Had McBride scored a touchdown for every 100 yards he gained on the season, he’d have logged 230 points, good for 19.16 pts a game, which would’ve been a league winner. Undoubtedly, McBride is the clear No. 1 choice this year for the Dennis Pitta Award.

While McBride is the clear winner, the runner-ups for the award are every bit as interesting. Isaiah Likely was a favorite weapon of Coast Carolina and their quarterback, Grayson McCall, as they feasted on an incredibly weak schedule. Likely saw 52 receptions go his way, good for 816 yards (second in the country at the position), and was targeted consistently in the endzone, good for 10 scores. His touchdown production was almost enough to surpass McBride as the tight end No. 1.

The other runner-up was a pre-season favorite at the position, Cole Turner. The Nevada game-breaker was highly valued, going three rounds earlier in redraft league drafts than any other player. However, the emergence of multiple weapons on Nevada’s offense didn’t let him live up to that lofty price tag. He still ended the season as the TE No. 3, with 62 receptions for 677 yards and 10 TDs, plenty for CFF owners to be happy about.

One last honorable mention needs to be Freshman phenom, Brock Bowers. It’s not often that Georgia produces CFF-valuable players, let alone tight ends. Nonetheless, Bowers has been one of the most explosive playmakers for the Bulldogs. Recording 652 yards and 10 touchdowns on only 37 receptions (as well as three carries for 55 yards and a touchdown), what Bowers has done as a freshman has many CFF analysts excited about his future success. Looking to next season, you are likely looking at Bowers as the preseason tight end No. 1!

Jared Palmgrem, @CFF_Jared

Scholar’s 2021 All-Waiver Wire Team

  • QB Sam Hartman, Wake Forest
  • QB Tanner Mordecai, SMU
  • RB Kenneth Walker, Michigan State
  • RB Rashaan Ali, Marshall
  • WR Deven Thompkins, Utah State
  • WR Jameson Williams, Alabama
  • WR Dontayvion Wicks, Virginia
  • TE Brock Bowers, Georgia
  • Flex: Sean Tucker, Syracuse

For years, I have stated that the waiver wire is essential to winning CFF championships. After the season kicks off, so many players, who were not drafted, become weekly CFF luminaries. JD Yonke and I featured nearly every aforementioned player in our weekly Waiver Wire Gemstones column. Also, I acquired all of the players on at least one of my eight teams this season. All are deserving of being named to the CFF All-Waiver Wire Team in 2021.

John Laub, @GridironSchol91

Adrian Peterson Award: Freshman of the Year

1. TreVeyon Henderson, Ohio State (35 points)

2. Xavier Worthy, Texas (18 points)

3. Braelon Allen, Wisconsin (5 points)

Ohio State running back TreVeyon Henderson was the unanimous choice for Freshman of the Year. It’s easy to understand why. Henderson was a five-star prospect who entered the season with high expectations, and was typically the first freshman drafted last summer. He quickly found a role in the Ohio State backfield and made his debut with a 70-yard touchdown catch-and-run in the season opener against Minnesota

Henderson took over as the primary ball carrier for the Buckeyes in September, exploded with 277 rushing yards and three touchdowns in Week 3 against Tulsa, and cruised to 1,172 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground with an average of 7.02 yards per carry. He also caught 23 passes for 285 yards and four scores. The Virginia native led all true freshmen skill-position players with 282.2 points in ppr-scoring leagues (only Memphis quarterback Seth Henigan had more among first-year players).

Texas receiver Xavier Worthy led all true freshmen receivers with 204 points in standard leagues, and his 235.5 in ppr-scoring ranked second to Henderson among skill-position players. Worthy was the bright spot in a Texas receiving corps that struggled with injury and consistency, and he finished with 62 receptions for 981 yards and 12 touchdowns. Only four FBS receivers found the end zone more during the regular season.

Braelon Allen didn’t make the immediate impact of Henderson or Worthy, but few players finished the season on a higher note. After earning 12 carries in Wisconsin’s first four games, on which he gained a combined 49 yards and scored once, Allen ran for 131 yards against Illinois on October 9. The first of seven consecutive 100-yard performances. Allen became a workhorse late in the season and finished with 1,109 yards and 12 touchdowns on 157 attempts. He also chipped in with six receptions for 37 yards.

Nicholas Ian Allen, @CFBWinningEdge

Scholar’s My Guys Team

  • QB Tyler Van Dyke, Miami
  • QB Will Levis, Kentucky
  • RB Hassan Haskins, Michigan
  • RB Keaton Mitchell, East Carolina
  • WR Nathaniel Dell, Houston
  • WR Makai Polk, Mississippi State
  • WR Calvin Jackson, Washington State
  • TE Gerrit Prince, UAB
  • Flex Brad Roberts, Air Force

One of my favorite aspects of college football is watching players rise from obscurity and impact their teams and fantasy rosters. All of the above players became weekly fantasy starters despite low expectations in the CFF community in August. Or they were buried on the depth charts of their respective programs until October. Nevertheless, a CFF manager could have placed all the competitors in a championship game starting lineup last weekend. The roster would have scored 212.4 points–more than my winning team–in ppr-scoring formats.

Over the final three weeks, Van Dyke and Levis both ranked in the Top 15 CFF quarterbacks. Haskins has produced the fourth most fantasy points among running backs since November 10. In 2021, Roberts rushed for over 1,200 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. Freshman Mitchell sprinted for 1,132 yards and nine scores while adding 22 receptions for 257 yards and a touchdown. At receiver, Dell, Polk and Jackson combined for 232 catches for 2,971 yards and 27 touchdowns. The Scholar’s My Guys Team could easily be assembled after the 2021 campaign kicked off and help CFF managers during the postseason.

John Laub, @GridironSchol91

Red Grange Award: The CFF MVP

1. Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky (35 points)

2. Jerreth Sterns, Western Kentucky (12 points)

3. Breece Hall, Iowa State (8 points)

On December 9, 2001, WWF Vengeance went live from San Diego, California. The card for the night saw fantastic matches with the Hardyz facing one another. Lita serving as the guest referee. The Dudleys taking on Big Show and Kane, and The Undertaker facing off against RVD in a hardcore match. The memorable night led to a grand contest between Stone Cold Steve Austin, who had won the WWF Championship earlier, and “Y2J” Chris Jericho, who won the World Championship prior in the evening. The victor named the grand champion. With an assist from Booker T and WWF CEO Vince McMahon, it was Jericho who went home undisputed.

This year’s Red Grange Award winner stands in a similar light…Undisputed. The entire panel saw Western Kentucky quarterback Bailey Zappe as the player who stood above every other CFF competitor. Zappe’s regular-season performance resulted in a stat line that topped not only every other CFF player in football but also Joe Burrow’s 2019 season. With two games left on the schedule, it would not be shocking to see him surpass Burrow’s passing numbers entirely. When Tyson Helton mentioned that he would bring back the glory days that featured Brandon Doughty and Mike White, he delivered with an incredibly smart hire and a phenomenal acquisition through the transfer portal. Congratulations to Zappe, your undisputed Red Grange CFF MVP.

Justin Heisey, @InsiderCff

Award Scoring:

First Place = 5 points

Second Place = 3 points

Third Place = 5 points

All-Time CFF Award Winners

Cam Newton Award

2015 Patrick Mahomes, II
2016 Lamar Jackson
2017 Lamar Jackson
2018 Kyler Murray
2019 Jalen Hurts
2020 Kyle Trask
2021 Bailey Zappe

Adrian Peterson Award

2020 Deuce Vaughn
2021 TreVeyon Henderson

Barry Sanders Award

2015 Derrick Henry
2016 Jeremy McNichols
2017 Rashaad Penny
2018 Darrell Henderson
2019 Chuba Hubbard
2020 Najee Harris
2021 Breece Hall

Dennis Pita Award

2020 Kyle Pitts
2021 Tre McBride

Red Grange Award

2015 P. Mahomes & C. Coleman
2016 Lamar Jackson
2017 Lamar Jackson
2018 Kyler Murray
2019 Jalen Hurts
2020 DeVonta Smith
2021 Bailey Zappe

Desmond Howard Award

2015 Corey Coleman
2016 Zay Jones
2017 T. Quinn & A. Johnson
2018 Andy Isabella
2019 J. Chase & O. Bayless
2020 DeVonta Smith
2021 Jerreth Sterns

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