Generally I bristle at the yearly cry that “this is the strangest NFL season,” but we’ll steer into it today. Leo Tolstoy famously said every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, and that timeless wisdom can be applied to a fantasy campaign. Every year is weird in its own way.

But even with that disclaimer, 2021 felt like the weirdest season of my fantasy lifetime (and I’ve been playing since the 1990s). COVID-19 is a part of our lives now.

With most fantasy leagues complete, it’a time to reflect on what just happened and consider some takeaways. This is an exercise in pencil. I reserve the right to adjust, tweak, and reconsider much of what’s here before the 2022 fantasy season begins in earnest. But it’s never too early to start having these types of discussions.

So for whatever early-January musings mean to you, here are some of my notes from a clipboard, fantasy football takeaways for 2021.

It gets late early with running backs

Once a star running back breaks out and makes all the magazine covers, it’s almost the signal to look elsewhere. This is the position where players are, cruelly at times, used up and spit out.

If you’re a magazine hoarder, you’ll remember these fantasy football coverboys from recent issues: Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, Ezekiel Elliott, Derrick Henry, Todd Gurley, Le’Veon Bell, Dalvin Cook. Almost every one of those backs was a negative fantasy play in 2021. Gurley, of course, is out of football. Bell’s bounced around as a backup player. No one expected much from those guys, so they don’t drive the takeaway.

Christian McCaffrey appeared in just seven games this season after being the No. 1 overall consensus pick in fantasy drafts. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

But McCaffrey had his second straight injury-wrecked year, and Henry finally broke down (or, if you prefer, finally got unlucky). Kamara, Elliott, and Barkley played most of the year, compromised at times, and never looked…

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