2017 NFL Fantasy Alarm Awards
Dom Murtha brings us his inaugural Fantasy Alarm Awards for the entire NFL regular season and breaks down who's going home with some Fantasy Alarm hardware!
| The 1st Annual Fantasy Alarm Awards |
It’s always sad to see a season end. Whether it be summer, the holiday season, a sports season, a season of Game of Thrones... you get the idea… and without a proper recap it’s even sadder to let the season end without remembering the highlights and best of the best. That’s why we have The Oscars for movies, The Emmys for television, The Grammys for music, and The Golden Globes for all of them (we can find out how redundant The Golden Globes really are this Sunday night I suppose)? In any event, without The FAA’s (Fantasy Alarm Awards) there is nothing to document the season that was in the fantasy football realm.
Below, brought to you by your host NostraDomUs, the 2017 NFL season will be meticulously broken down and analyzed through a magnified fantasy lens. For those of you who have followed my “Running Back Workloads Awards” for the last few seasons, you already know what to expect. For those unfamiliar... Aptly named awards will be handed out to the most deserving of players/teams who either rose to the occasion and won their owners a championship, or wildly disappointed based off of preseason expectations. Considering my love for season long recaps however, you can expect a whole lot of awards falling somewhere in between those drastically different parameters as well.
-- A couple of things to keep in mind –
1) Award criterion will pertain to PPR scoring, which will make any DFS related material DraftKings heavy.
2) You may see some of the awards with previous winners and preseason predictions noted. That is because some of the awards have been carried over from my now defunct “Running Back Workloads Awards”. I find it relevant to keep the old tradition alive in that respect.
Now, without further ado… Buckle your seat belts and enjoy the first annual Fantasy Alarm Awards!
The Eric Dickerson Award: (Fantasy Rookie of the Year)
2017 Preseason Prediction: Christian McCaffrey
“While argued by some, it is largely accepted that in 1983, Eric Dickerson had the single greatest rookie season in the history of the NFL. Straight out of Southern Methodist University, Dickerson entered the league as a Los Angeles Ram, toting the rock 390 times for 1,808 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns, while also catching 51 passes for 404 yards and two more touchdowns. Knowing this makes it pretty understandable why the award is named after the Hall of Famer. In 2016, Ezekiel Elliott perfectly exemplified the explosive nature and flashed the potential dominance that Dickerson did back in ’83, which is why he came away with the award. This year, the category is stacked once again, featuring not only a host of worthy rookie running backs, but also breakout stars at the receiver and quarterback positions. While 2016 was more loaded than usual, 2017 has a chance to be a fantasy rookie season for the ages.”
Leonard Fournette, RB, JAX – Of the nominees, none had higher fantasy expetations than Fournette, as he not only was taken the highest in the draft (fourth overall), but he also presumably possessed the best skill-set to translate from the college to the pro game. By all accounts, the LSU grad didn’t disappoint in 2017, as he racked up over 1,000 rushing yards, while his nine rushing touchdowns were good enough for third most in the league. While he did leave a bit to be desired in the passing game, that was to be expected considering his resume in college. With all things being considered, 230.2 fantasy points graded him out as the ninth best fantasy back in 2017. Hall of Fame careers have started out in far worse fashion.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, CAR – Admittedly, McCaffrey was my pet cat entering this fantasy season, and really in several years prior to it. He is blessed with rare athletic ability and elusiveness, while his skill-set as a pass catcher out of the backfield hasn’t been seen since the likes of Reggie Bush and Marshall Faulk. On the season, McCaffrey finished with 80 receptions – good enough for third amongst qualified running backs – over 1,000 total yards, and seven total touchdowns. He managed to lead the Panthers in receptions, while he finished second on the team in receiving yards and touchdowns. He led the team in all-purpose yards, while his 228.6 fantasy points trailed only Cam Newton for the team lead. To say 2017 is going to be a tough season to follow up is an understatement.
Deshaun Watson, QB, HOU – For the 2017 season, Watson finished with more touchdowns than reigning MVP Matt Ryan, future Hall of Famer Eli Manning, former Rookie of the Year Jameis Winston, former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco, Jay Cutler, Tyrod Taylor, and Marcus Mariota. In large part they all played full schedules this season… Watson accomplished this feat in just seven games! Truth be told, Watson would have ran away with this award had he not torn his ACL midway through the season. Enough said on this sensational rookie.
Alvin Kamara, RB, NO – What an incredible season it was for Kamara, as he seemingly came out of nowhere to emerge as one of the must own DFS options on a weekly basis. For those who picked him up or drafted him in the later rounds of the draft, God bless you because in Kamara you got yourself the third best fantasy running back and fourth best overall fantasy player this season. He accomplished this in a backfield split that can be argued didn’t work his favor, while in much of the earlier weeks of the season he was also bogged down by the presence of a future Hall of Famer in Adrian Peterson. Once the Saints wised up and unleashed Kamara on the league, they saw come to life what Reggie Bush’s NFL career was supposed to look like. He proved to score from anywhere on the field, while his breakaway percentage blew away the competition according to Pro Football Focus. He racked up incredible numbers as a receiver, finishing second amongst backs in receptions with 81, second in receiving touchdowns with five, and first in receiving yards – nearly 50 yards clear of the closest competition. As a runner, he not only scored eight touchdowns (fourth amongst backs), but also his 6.1 yards per carry average came just inches shy of beating the modern era mark set by Jamaal Charles back in 2010. If I haven’t made myself clear enough, Kamara is the leader in the clubhouse here…
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, PIT – Not to pat myself on the back here or anything, but I was all over JuJu entering this season, contrary to most other fantasy pundits. Following the draft, I went on record saying that I loved his potential in this Steelers offense and that based off skill-set alone I saw a player in the mold of Anquan Boldin and Dez Bryant. I even mentioned his Terrell Owens ceiling that this season was surprisingly put on display far sooner than even I could have imagined. In just 13 games of legitimate action, JuJu finished his rookie season with 1,157 all-purpose yards, eight total touchdowns, 58 receptions, and nearly 1,000 receiving yards. He not only proved to be the Steelers fourth best offensive player – and that’s saying something considering the presence of only Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le’Veon Bell ahead of him – but he also proved to be their most explosive playmaker with separate touchdowns of both 97 and 96 yards. An understatement would be to say that the future is bright for the NFL’s youngest player.
Kareem Hunt, RB, KC – After the first five weeks of the season, I was ready to rename this award The Kareem Hunt Trophy as he was absolutely dismantling defenses on a weekly basis. He started off his career with a fumble, but after that he turned his NFL debut into one of the season’s best performances, and on the road against the defending Super Bowl champs no less. On that September night, Hunt racked up 148 rushing yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, while he added an additional 98 receiving yards and two more touchdowns on just five receptions. Sure his production slipped towards the middle part of the season, likely losing fantasy owners some pivotal games, but his uptick in production down the stretch of this season was good enough to win him the rushing title. With his 295.2 fantasy points, Hunt finished fourth amongst qualified running backs and ninth in overall fantasy scoring. It’s hard to do much better than that in any year, let alone a rookie season.
Alvin Kamara, RB, NO – Surely you can’t be surprised having experienced the same last four months of football that I just did, but entering the season it would have been really ballsy to pull Kamara’s name out of a hat when predicting the preseason fantasy Rookie of the Year. In all likelihood he’ll deservedly go on to win the actual football ROTY as well, and while these honors are swell, they will probably be deemed meaningless in the eyes of Kamara if the Saints can’t get the job done in the playoffs. This team is that good.
The Adrian Peterson Award: (Comeback Player of the Year)
2017 Preseason Prediction: Todd Gurley
“Coming off of a torn ACL that occurred late in the 2011 season, the then 27-year-old Peterson entered Week 1 of the 2012 season with plenty of question marks surrounding his potential production going forward. By season’s end, he finished as the league MVP coming only nine yards short of the single-season rushing record set by the aforementioned (previous award’s namesake) Eric Dickerson. Peterson’s 2,097 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns, and mind-boggling 6.0 yards per carry set his 2012 far apart from anyone else in terms of the greatest comeback season of all-time.”
Rob Gronkowski, TE, NE – We all know and love Gronk, but aside from his greatness, the one undeniable fact about him has been his body and general lack of health. When drafted, Gronkowski’s back was characterized as a ticking time bomb, which is ultimately what led him to slipping out of the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. While there were certainly physical ups and downs throughout his first six seasons however, largely, Gronk proved to be one of the premier tight ends, not just in the game, but of all time. The, in 2016, his ticking bomb seemingly ran out of time. In Week 12 against the New York Jets, the hulking tight end suffered a serious back injury; a herniated disk that required emergency surgery. Many worried if he would ever play again, considering the fact that his back was always the dark cloud hanging over his potential Hall of Fame career. To say that Gronk had a lot to prove in 2017 was an understatement… In all this past season, seemingly against all odds, Gronkowski returned to being the league’s premier tight end, as he hauled in 69 catches, for 1,048 yards, and eight touchdowns. He most importantly played in 14 of the Patriots 16 games, putting to rest the fear of a recurring back injury. Even if this season doesn’t end with yet another Super Bowl victory, Gronk making his fifth Pro Bowl and likely fifth All-Pro team should deem 2017 as one of the most inspiring “comeback” seasons ever.
Keenan Allen, WR, LAC – Through eight games of the 2015 season, it was tough to argue against Keenan Allen as the league’s best receiver. In just one half of the season, Allen had set a pace that would have ended him up with a stunning 134 catches, 1,450 yards, and eight touchdowns. Unfortunately though, as often happens in this league, disaster struck… Allen was forced to miss the remainder of the season with a lacerated kidney, and his historic pace was halted. Back and healthy, after nearly 10 months off, Allen returned to NFL action in Week 1 of the 2016 season. All systems appeared clear for the slot wizard, as he had already racked up six receptions for 63 yards in the first half of action. But wouldn’t you know it, with just under two minutes left in the half, disaster struck once again, as Allen went down clutching his right knee. He was carted off the field; he had torn his ACL. His season was over before it really even started. Fast forward to this season and understandably expectations were tame. While his talent is clear and immense, the fact remained that Allen had only played nine games over the last 24 months. To surprise of everyone though, 2017 proved to be a magical one for the health of Allen and subsequently for the production of fantasy owners. Allen not only played all 16 games for the first time in his career, but he did it to the tune of 102 receptions, nearly 1,400 yards, and six receiving touchdowns. Talk about a statement… Those gaudy numbers landed Allen as the league’s third best fantasy wide receiver for 2017, proving to be one of the inspirational stories of the season.
Todd Gurley, RB, LAR – While the first two nominees concerned comebacks from injuries, these next two characterize the term “comeback” in a different light. After an excellent rookie season in which Todd Gurley took the league by storm, 2016 was equally as disappointing as his 2015 was jaw dropping. Despite a significant uptick in touches, Gurley’s numbers plummeted across the board in his sophomore season… from 1,106 rushing yards to just 885, from 10 touchdowns to six, from 4.8 yards per carry to a dismal 3.2. His ineptitude led to the Rams featuring the league’s least productive offense, a characterization unbecoming of the former 10th overall pick. With Rams coach Jeff Fisher understandably fired after the disappointing season, a new sheriff – Sean McVay – strolled into town looking to maximize the potential and production of his most talented player. In 2017, with the help of coach McVay, Gurley turned his downward spiraling career right side up again, showcasing potential that even his most ardent defenders didn’t know he was capable of. So it’s on the record here, in his third year in the league, Gurley put together an MVP caliber campaign, racking up 1,305 rushing yards, at a 4.7 yards per carry clip, and 13 rushing touchdowns, while he added 64 catches, for 788 yards, and an additional six receiving touchdowns to his league leading total touchdowns mark. In many respects Gurley, in just one season, went from worst to first, in that he was the league’s most disappointing fantasy player last season to now being the number one overall scorer by a long shot. He’ll be in contention for the league MVP come February, which should tell you everything you need to know about his road to redemption.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, HOU – From last year’s most disappointing fantasy running back, to last year’s most disappointing fantasy wideout. In 2015 the sky appeared to be the limit for D-Hop, as he racked up 111 catches on nearly 200 targets, while he registered over 1,500 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. Understandably drafted highly in most fantasy drafts last season, bad quarterback play and an overall worse roster makeup from the season prior led to Hopkins seeing his numbers precipitously drop across the board. He failed to reach 100 catches (78), or even 1,000 yards (954), while his mere four touchdowns may have been the biggest disappointment of all. Considering his down 2016 and unproven quarterback additions to the roster – a rookie and a no-name “vet” – expectations were understandably tame for Hopkins entering 2017. Just like with Keenan Allen however, lower expectations from fantasy owners proved to be a recipe for Hopkins’ success. In 2017, “Nuk” as many call him, racked up numbers that rival his amazing 2015… 96 catches, 1,378 yards, and 13 touchdowns. Most impressively of all was that depending on which scoring system you look at, Hopkins finished the year as the number one fantasy wide receiver. All things being considered here, it would be tough to say that a player bounced back to form in a bigger way than Hopkins did in 2017…
Todd Gurley, RB, LAR – This may be a biased answer because I picked him in my preseason predictions, but give me a chance to make the case for Gurley here… Differently from all of the other nominees, Gurley not only bounced back this season, but he managed to end up better than he ever was. And that is really saying something considering how awful his 2016 was – I repeat, he averaged just 3.2 yards per carry; I still can’t wrap my head around that. While Keenan Allen would have been my second choice due to the fact that he lost the better part of his last two seasons due to injury, Todd Gurley finished this year as the number one fantasy player by a long shot and he’s in line to win the league MVP award. Regardless though, what inspiring stories from all of the nominees here…
The Victor Cruz Medal of Emergence (Best Waiver Pickup)
Previous Winners: N/A
2017 Preseason Prediction: N/A
“After a rookie season of just three games and a lot of practice squad reps, understandably, not many people knew who Victor Cruz was entering the 2011 season. They would soon… He quietly showed well during the preseason the previous August, particularly in the opener against the Jets when he hauled in six targets for 145 yards and three touchdowns, but outside of that he was no different than a ghost on the fantasy radar for the next 13 months. Things quickly changed however, as after a Week 2 injury to Domenik Hixon, Cruz was slated for his first career start. In that Week 3 game against the Eagles, not only did Cruz take two of his three catches to the house for a combined 110 yards, but he also displayed a salsa step in the end zone that would make Eddie Torres blush. Cruz was quickly the talk of the fantasy waiver wires, as he was claimed and subsequently scrapped up by any and every fantasy owner who could. While arguments can be made for others, the addition of Cruz to fantasy rosters that season is probably the most impactful waiver pickup in the history of fantasy football. In all, he went from zero percent owned in Week 1 to racking up 82 catches, 1,536 yards, and nine touchdowns come season’s end. This award bears Cruz’s name for that reason and the winner this year will best exemplify what he did in 2011."
Alex Collins, RB, BAL – In 2016 he was drafted 171st overall and as of September 2017 he was the Seahawks sixth string running back. Unsurprisingly he was cut prior to Week 1. The Ravens quickly picked him up for depth purposes, as he was slated to backup Terrance West, Javorious Allen, and Danny Woodhead. Various injuries to the backfield and some Buck Allen ineptitude later… and Collins was the Ravens starting back by early October. From sixth string on a different team and zero fantasy ownership in Week 1 to the Ravens starting running back with nearly 1,000 yards and six touchdowns by season’s end… I would say that Collins did his best Victor Cruz impression in 2017.
Marquise Goodwin, WR, SF – Outside of his US Olympic Team appearances and sub-4.3 40-time at the 2013 NFL Combine, Marquise Goodwin was largely unknown to the public, at least prior to the arrival of Jimmy Garoppolo. In his four previous seasons, Goodwin had amassed a combined 780 receiving yards. In the second half of 2017 alone, Goodwin registered 613 receiving yards. For the year, the speedster fell just shy of 1,000 yards with 962, but the fact that he far surpassed his career total in just 16 games speaks to his surprising emergence. With what he showed this season, Goodwin seems to be set for a Ted Ginn Jr. type of career arc, which is more than anyone could have hoped for him.
Nelson Agholor, WR, PHI – A former first round pick in 2015, Agholor’s first two seasons in the league had him headed on a train straight for Bust-Ville. He failed to register over 365 yards or two touchdowns in any of his first two years, while entering camp in 2017 he was rumored to be on the Eagles chopping block come cut day. Fortunately for Agholor though, he was spared, as the Eagles traded Jordan Matthews in the preseason, making way for him to join the first team as the slot receiver. All things considered though, expectations were still low, especially in the fantasy department. Largely undrafted in all formats, Agholor quickly turned heads to the waive wire after his Week 1 explosion of six catches for 86 yards, and a touchdown against the Redskins. Agholor would go on to catch seven more touchdowns throughout the season, while his totals of 768 yards and 62 receptions made him a flex mainstay in starting fantasy rosters for most of the rest of the year.
Kenyan Drake, RB, MIA – Another perceived over drafted and underperformer, Drake struggled in his rookie season and failed to make any headway into the Miami running back rotation. He was cluttered behind guys like Jay Ajayi and Damien Williams, who to their own right had been more productive than Drake in their opportunities. Then in the middle of this season, the coaching staff and front office decided to take a gamble on Drake, as they traded Ajay – their top back – to the Eagles. Even after that Week 8 decision, it was still tough sledding for Drake to make his mark, as he was still being overshadowed by the presence of Damien Williams. Eventually though, after a Week 11 injury to Williams, Drake finally got a taste of the full workload and he didn’t disappoint. Over the final five games of the season, now as the Dolphins unquestioned starter, Drake averaged 88 rushing yards on 18.2 carries per game, good enough for nearly 5.0 yards per carry. He also added 32 receptions for 239 yards and a touchdown on the season, making him one of the most valuable waiver pickups down the stretch of this season.
Kenyan Drake, RB, MIA – I’m going with Drake here, not because he necessarily had the best season, but because he played the best out of this bunch when it mattered most. There is something to be said for waiver claims that can go out and play a big role in your qualifying games and playoff matchups, and that is exactly what Drake did this season.
The Trent Richardson Bronze Bust: (Fantasy Bust of the Year)
2017 Preseason Prediction: Melvin Gordon
“He won two national titles with Alabama, was third in the Heisman Trophy voting in 2011, and was a unanimous All-American in the same season. Longtime Colts GM Bill Polian called him one of the “three sure-thing players” available in the 2012 NFL Draft. All of this, combined with the fact that the Browns took him third overall that year, gave way to the understandably tremendous Trent Richardson hype train. He lived up to the rep in large part during his rookie season, as the Alabama product racked up 11 touchdowns and 950 rushing yards. An above-average debut was all that was needed to get the fantasy community buzzing, as Richardson entered his second season with an ADP (average draft position) at 10th overall… The first round! Just five weeks into the season however, the Browns jumped ship, selling Richardson to the highest bidder – the Indianapolis Colts. Rather than setting off alarm bells for fantasy owners, they in fact became even more hyped about the running back, citing that he would be even better operating out of the high-powered, Andrew Luck-run, Colts offense. Against all odds though, Richardson was out of the league and barely heard from again just one year later, proving to be not only one of the biggest busts in the history of the NFL, but also one of the biggest fantasy disappointments of all time. Despite all of the promise – Trent Richardson, the highest drafted running back in the last 12 years – never eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards or 3.6 yards per carry, while his career barely lasted four seasons. With all things being considered, I cannot think of a better namesake for this statuette… or bust… than Trent Richardson."
Amari Cooper, WR, OAK – To go from one of the promising young receivers in our game with back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons to start off his career, to the numbers that he put up in 2017 has to be a tremendous blow to all Raiders fans and fantasy owners alike. For reference, Cooper posted just a shade over half of his receiving yards and receptions from 2017… Hey, on the bright side, he did manage to post a career high in touchdowns with seven. All things considered though, outside of his monster game against the Chiefs this season, 2017 was a colossal disappointment for the Alabama product.
Derek Carr, QB, OAK – Joining his teammate was Carr, who regressed in seemingly every conceivable category. He was coming off of a season in which he was right up there in the MVP discussion, while fantasy expectations were for him to finish somewhere inside the top-eight. Instead he finished 19th – the bottom of the barrel – behind names like Blake Bortles, Tyrod Taylor, Andy Dalton, and Case Keenum. For now we can chalk this poor year up to an adjustment from his season ending injury in 2016, but either way that doesn’t change the fact that he was a colossal fantasy disappointment this year.
Jordy Nelson, WR, GB – It’s tough to throw Jordy in here because I believe that without the loss of Aaron Rodgers, he would have been just fine. Unfortunately though there are no excuses in fantasy football and the fact remains that he went from a guy being drafted in the first round during the preseason to the 46th overall wideout in all of fantasy football. Aaron Rodgers couldn’t have been that responsible for his production all of these years, could he? In all likelihood, the 33-year-old receiver finally started to slow down, which caused him to lose his ability to separate as easily from cornerbacks. For reference, his 482 yards and six touchdowns in 2017 were his lowest totals since 2010… What a whiff this year was for him
Terrelle Pryor, WR, WAS – Ahhh, the crown jewel of 2017 busts. After grabbing a career high 77 passes for over 1,000 yards with the Browns in 2016, people though the sky was the limit for TP in 2017 after he was signed by the Redskins and paired with Kirk Cousins as his battery mate… but here we are, less than a year later, and Pryor not only finished his season on the IR, but he also failed to register over 20 catches, 240 yards, and a touchdown in nine weeks of action. This was regression like I have never seen before, leading most to believe that there has to be more than on the field issues with the quarterback turned receiver. Regardless, the fact remains that Pryor was almost unanimously considered a third round selection by most fantasy pundits entering this season, however he fell outside of the top-100 at the position.
Terrelle Pryor, WR, WAS – I kind of gave it away in Pryor’s description above, but seriously… WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO TP?? He went from a borderline Pro Bowler to a ghost who was struggling to see reps despite his preseason designation as the Redskins WR1 when the year opened. He’ll have to start from square one when looking for a job once again this offseason.
The Michael Turner Trophy (Most Improved Player)
Previous Winners: N/A
2017 Preseason Prediction: N/A
“Bogged down in his first four seasons by the presence of one of the greatest players to ever play the game – LaDainian Tomlinson – Michael Turner existed largely in fantasy obscurity, registering no more than 502 rushing yards or three rushing touchdowns in any of his years with the Chargers. Then in 2008, after signing a free agent deal with the Falcons, everything changed. In his first year in Atlanta, Turner would go on to take the league by storm… He led all running backs with 376 rushing attempts, while he finished second in the NFL in total touchdowns (17) and in rushing yards (1,699). In just one season, Turner’s usage rate ballooned from 4.4 rushing attempts per game to 23.5; nearly a 600-percent increase! While some expected Turner to be relevant in his first year as a starter, Michael Turner’s 2008 left fantasy owners wondering ‘where the hell did that come from?’ To think of a player with a more explosive, out-of-nowhere burst of fantasy production is tough, which is why this honor bears his name.”
Robby Anderson, WR, NYJ – Anderson is a player who showed strides as a rookie in 2016, operating out of a bad Jets offense, but the leap he took in 2017 is not one that many expected. In all, Anderson finished with 63 catches, for just a shade under 1,000 yards, with seven touchdowns. In large part, it can be argued that it was Anderson’s presence that made journeyman Josh McCown so competent this season, as his leaping ability and straight-line speed always made him a viable target in the passing game. While not on Michael Turner’s level, Anderson’s 2017 made a lot of fantasy owners outside of the New York/New Jersey say “who the hell is this guy?”
Alex Smith, QB, KC – Yes, I know that Alex Smith has had solid years before, and I know that he is a former first overall pick, but the Alex Smith we saw this season has never been seen before. In 2017 he set career highs in completions, yards, attempts, touchdowns, yards per attempt, yards per completion, quarterback rating, and QBR. It was also the first time he threw for over 4,000 yards in a season, while maybe most impressive of all, considering his elite ability to take care of the football, he posted his best career TD/INT ratio. Half way through the season, people were calling for Smith to win the MVP, which is a conversation that he was never in before in any of his 12 NFL seasons. Watching him for the first two months of this season, I truly did remark, “Where the hell did that come from?”
Nelson Agholor, WR, PHI – I have already outlined Agholor’s season in depth above, so I’ll spare you here. For our purposes with this award though, keep in mind that Agholor had bust written all over him prior to the 2017 season. Seemingly left for dead entering the season as the Eagles fifth wideout, he was spared by the gods after a Jordan Matthews trade to Buffalo. Given new life, Agholor made the most of his season as the starting slot receiver for Philly. He finished just shy of 1,000 yards, while his eight touchdowns ranked him fourth amongst NFL wide receivers this season. Talk about a road to redemption…
Alex Smith, QB, KC – While Smith trailed off a bit in the middle of the season, his beginning was spectacular and his end was inspiring. In 2017, Smith compiled the best year of his veteran career and finally put an end to the question if his status as a number one overall pick way back in 2005 was bust worthy. He evolved as a passer in ways that didn’t seem possible. We thought we knew Alex Smith as well as we would, but this season he surprised all by finally becoming fantasy relevant.
The Ray Lewis Award (IDP Player of the Year)
Previous Winners: N/A
2017 Preseason Prediction: N/A
“While there was no source exactly available that I could find, through much of my own research and quantifying, I came to the executive conclusion that Ray Lewis is the greatest IDP (individual defensive player) in the history of fantasy football. Throughout his esteemed 17-year career, Lewis made 13 Pro Bowls and 10 All-Pro teams. He’s the NFL’s all-time leader in tackles, while he remains one of only two members of the “30-30 club” which denotes at least 30 sacks and 30 interceptions for a career. In all, he’s also amongst the top of the list for inside linebackers at forcing fumbles, recovering fumbles, sacking the quarterback, and picking them off. With such a well-rounded resume, there is little chance that any other defensive player could have ever made a more consistent impact for fantasy owners on a year-to-year basis."
Reshad Jones, DB, MIA – As we all know, fantasy football is about stat stuffing, and no one did it better this season than Jones, who led all defensive backs in fantasy points for 2017. For reference, he racked up an astounding 122 tackles, 1.5 sacks, two interceptions, and three fumble recoveries. What a year!?
Demarcus Lawrence, DE, DAL – D-Law had an incredible start to the season, as he racked up 10 sacks in the Cowboys first seven games. Once his partner in crime David Irving was lost, and when teams figured out a way to properly triple-team him, Lawrence began to slow down a bit. In all though, Lawrence still finished second in the NFL with 15.5 sacks – most from any Cowboy since DeMarcus Ware – and he finished third in fantasy points amongst defensive linemen this season.
Calais Campbell, DL, JAX – The best player on the best defense, it makes sense to give Campbell some recognition here. Sure his stats don’t necessarily jump off the page as some of the other guys on this list, but the fact of the matter is that he finished right up there with the best of them in terms of total fantasy points. For the record here, Campbell was the top overall defensive lineman in terms of fantasy scoring this season, which is an impressive feat for a guy not coming off the edge.
Bobby Wagner, LB, SEA – Wagner often gets overlooked as the best player on the Legion of Boom, let alone as one of the best linebackers in the entire league, so I’m not surprised to see that many people overlook him in fantasy too. The fact remains though that Wagner finished 2017 as the top overall scorer amongst IDP eligible players, making him the frontrunner for this award.
Chandler Jones, OLB, ARZ – Jones led the league in sacks and for IDP leagues, that means a lot. He also offered versatility as a linebacker, which allowed him to post an impressive 60 tackles. His 172 fantasy points were the most by any pass rusher on this list, so there is something to be said about that. Overall, a great year for Jones.
Bobby Wagner, LB, SEA – In a stacked category this year, I had to go with Wagner. Little really separated all of these great nominees, therefore I had to default to total fantasy points and Wagner topped them all. Really hard to go wrong with anyone listed here though.
The Buddy Ryan Trophy (Best Team Defense)
Previous Winners: N/A
2017 Preseason Prediction: N/A
“In the early 80’s, Buddy Ryan implemented one of the league’s all-time most effective defensive schemes – The 46 Defense. By 1985, he perfected it. Ryan’s Chicago Bears not only won the Super Bowl that year, but they embarrassed the league in the process. His defense led the NFL in seven different categories in 1985, including points against, rushing yards, total yards, first downs, rushing touchdowns, interceptions, and total takeaways. They were third in sacks, third in passing yards allowed, fourth in passing touchdowns, and they shut out four opponents, including two in the playoffs on their way to an 18-1 record and a Lombardi Trophy. This ‘85 Bears defensive unit – masterfully thought up by Buddy Ryan – would still today rank as the greatest team defense/special teams unit in fantasy football history. For that reason, this trophy bears his namesake."
Jacksonville Jaguars – The obvious frontrunners here and for good reason, as the Jags led the NFL in defensive touchdowns, and fewest passing yards allowed. They finished second in points allowed, total yards surrendered, total sacks, total turnovers, and interceptions. Roll all of that together and you have the highest scoring team defense in fantasy football by a long shot.
Baltimore Ravens – It’s pretty much spelled out above that the Jags have this one wrapped up, but let’s give credit to the Ravens who not only finished with the second best fantasy defense, but also were the only team to pick off more passes than the Jags fearsome secondary. Unfortunately, when it mattered most their defense failed them, as they allowed Andy Dalton to best them on a 4th and 12 from over 50 yards away for a touchdown. That play ended their season and gave birth to the Bills first playoff appearance in 18 years.
Philadelphia Eagles – The Eagles tied for the NFL’s best record this season and they did it on the backs of their number one ranked rush defense and number three ranked overall fantasy defense. They finished fourth in interceptions, fourth in fumble recoveries, and fifth in points allowed. A great year, but with all things being considered though, they still finished 50 fantasy points shy of the Jags this season.
Jacksonville Jaguars – I spoiled this one well before, but it was necessary. They Eagles and Ravens had nice seasons, but this was a season in which the Jags had their defense named – “Sacksonville.” That is a significant moment because it is not often that it happens. In recent memory we have the Broncos “No Fly Zone” and the Seahawks “Legion of Boom.” Other than that it, defenses don’t just get nicknames willy-nilly. Both aforementioned defenses won Super Bowls shortly after being named, so is there a bet worth making on Sacksonville prior to February?
The Larry Centers Trophy: (PPR Performer of the Year)
2017 Preseason Prediction: Le’Veon Bell
“Often gone unrecognized, No running back was more impactful in the passing game or had their production more singularly tied to receiving the football than Larry Centers. Lining up as a fullback for the Cardinals, Bills, Redskins, and Patriots throughout his 14-year career, Centers rarely received many carries. Instead he made his money as a PPR monster, averaging nearly 70 catches per year over his 12 seasons as a starting fullback. He’s one of three running backs to ever catch over 100 balls in a season, while he nearly became the only one to do it twice as he finished with 99 catches in 1996. Each year many try to duplicate what Centers did throughout his career, some of whom have succeeded, including Matt Forte, LaDanian Tomlinson, and Marshall Faulk... just to name a few. But forever this award will remain named after Centers – a man who’s sole reason for existence was getting open out of the backfield.”
Le'Veon Bell, PIT – This conversation should be shut closed after this statement… Le’Veon Bell led all running backs this season with 85 receptions. In terms of a PPR award is there really much more to say? If you want me to, I will. Bell also finished fourth amongst running backs in receiving yards, while he managed to tie for fifth in touchdown receptions.
Christian McCaffrey, CAR – McCaffrey led all running backs this season with 113 targets, while he finished third in receptions, fifth in yards, and second in touchdowns. Considering his seldom use as a runner this season, there isn’t really a better candidate for someone who most resembles what Centers did throughout his NFL career.
Alvin Kamara, NO – Kamara finished only four receptions behind Bell for the league lead amongst RB’s, while he led all backs in both receiving yards and touchdowns. Considering the fact that he barely played until about a month into a season, understand the type of impact that Kamara had in the most important moments of your PPR seasons.
Duke Johnson, CLE – Duke is a mainstay on this list because he is one of the best in the league at catching the football both out of the backfield and out of he slot. This season he finished fourth in receptions, fourth in touchdowns, and third in yards at the running back position.
Todd Gurley, LAR – For all of his accolades as a runner this season, Gurley’s biggest improvement came as a receiver, as he nearly quadrupled his career highs in catches, yards, and touchdowns. On the season at the position, he finished fifth in catches, second in yards, and first in touchdowns. Another thing to note is that his Week 16 receiving performance (10 receptions, 158 yards, and two touchdowns) alone outscored every wide receiver in the league for that week.
Alvin Kamara, NO – While I predicted Bell in the beginning of the season and I love being right, I couldn’t go against Kamara here. What it came down to is that while Bell may have had a few more catches than Kamara this season, Kamara’s production was far more tied to catching the football, which is what the spirit of the award named after Larry Centers is all about.
The Bo Jackson Memorial “What Could Have Been” Trophy
2017 Preseason Prediction: N/A
“No single football player was expected to do more with his football career than Bo Jackson was. He is considered by many to be the most talented athlete of all-time, but unfortunately injuries got the best of him. This award is presented to players who came into the season with Bo-like expectations or potential, yet due to unfortunate circumstances of a major injury, multiple nagging injuries, or reasons beyond their control, things just didn’t work out.”
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, DAL – While most on this list each year are present for unfortunate injuries, Elliott is here because of an unjust suspension. Despite never even being charged by police on domestic abuse, and being considered clear of wrongdoing by the NFL’s own lead investigator, Roger Goodell brought it upon himself to suspend the Dallas back for six games. Prior to the suspension that crippled he, his fantasy owners, and the Cowboys season, Elliott was having an excellent campaign. Outside of one terrible outing against the Broncos, Elliott registered no worse than 80 rushing yards in any game this season, including seven games over 90 yards and five over 100. His seven rushing touchdowns and two receiving touchdowns would have had him on pace for high double-digits without a six game suspension, while fantasy owners would have had themselves a top-five back for a full season.
David Johnson, RB, ARZ – After finishing 2016 as the number one player in fantasy football, Johnson entered 2017 as ADP 1.0. Unfortunately, with high expectations often come great consequences, as Johnson broke his wrist during the Cardinals Week 1 contest with the Lions. Just like that, season over. To go much further into would be speculation, as it is unclear how he would have done at any point in this 2017 season, but the fact remains that anytime you lose the top projected fantasy back you are going to wonder “what could have been?”
Dalvin Cook, RB, MIN – Instead of Alvin Kamara, Deshaun Watson, or Kareem Hunt, Dalvin Cook may have been the one to run away with the rookie of the year honors had he not torn his ACL in Week 4, ironically also against the Lions. In his first four career games, Cook had averaged 101 total yards and half a touchdown per game on an average of 21 touches. He looked to be every bit as good as any of the top backs in the game and his near fifth round ADP made him more than worth his weight in gold. Ahh, what could have been?
Aaron Rodgers, QB, GB – This one is simple… A year in and year out MVP caliber player was lost half way through the season. Fantasy owners drafted him as the number one overall quarterback. Unless you found a viable option on the waiver wire, losing Rodgers likely lost you your fantasy season.
Deshaun Watson, QB, HOU – Prior to his injury, Watson was leading the NFL in touchdowns with 19. Nine weeks and a completed NFL season later and Watson is still ahead of over a dozen of starting quarterbacks in terms of total touchdowns. Imagine what he could have done, fleshed out into a full season? At least he is still young and the Texans are largely bringing everyone back.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, DAL – While injuries happen, Zeke had this season consciously stolen from him. Commissioner Goodell unleashed a vendetta on Elliott, Cowboys fans, Jerry Jones, and fantasy owners in his sweeping judgment of a six game suspension. Outside of the suspension, Elliott was well on his way to another elite fantasy season, which also likely would have earned the Cowboys a top playoff seed. All other candidates were qualified, but Zeke’s 2017 brings the phrase “what could have been?” to a whole other level.
The Brett Favre Award (Lifetime Achievement)
Previous Winners: N/A
2017 Preseason Prediction: N/A
“To be great is one thing, but to be consistently great over a long period of time is another. No statement better describes Brett Favre, as some of his greatest moments and statistical seasons came at age 38 and beyond – geezer territory when it comes to NFLers. Particularly in his age 40 season (2009) did Favre dominate in previously unseen fashion, as he racked up over 4,200 yards passing and 33 touchdowns to just seven picks, while leading the Vikings to a 12-4 record and a division title. Simply put, no NFL player better embodies a career resume of greatness over decades than Brett Favre, which is why the lifetime achievement award bears his name. The players below are all wily ole vets, and to the credit of their incredible careers, they are all future Hall of Famers as well. This will be as tough an award to give to just one player as any other in recent memory…”
Frank Gore, RB, IND – While he’s not the player that he once was, in 2017, Gore embarked on rarely touched territory. First of all, the fact that he played a full season as a featured running back at 34 years of age is impressive enough because not one other player comes to mind who has accomplished that feat in the last 10 years. Beyond that though, in 2017, Gore reached 14,000 career rushing yards – something accomplished by only four other men in NFL history, while his over 1,200 yards from scrimmage this season helped him extend his already NFL record to over 12 years. On top of it all, Gore fell just 39 yards short of registering his 10th season of over 1,000 rushing yards, a number that would have put him just behind Emmitt Smith on the all time list.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, ARZ – Fitz, at an elderly 34 years old, finished 2017 second in receptions (109) and eighth in receiving yards. In the process he managed to move to third all-time on the receptions list, while he made his 11th Pro Bowl in 13 seasons. With no signs of him slowing down, there is a chance that he can even further his career standing and Hall of Fame resume in the years to come.
Tom Brady, QB, NE – It’s truly a wonder how the guy does it… Like fine wine, as Tom Terrific gets older, he seems to get better with age. In 2017, at 40 mind you, Brady led the league in pass attempts and passing yards, while he finished third in touchdowns, QBR, passer rating, and fifth in completion percentage. Truth be told, Brady may have a shot at the MVP award, let alone this lifetime achievement award.
Tom Brady, QB, NE – While I love what Fitz and Gore did this season, I can’t get over Tom Brady. Each year he appears to be in better shape and more mentally aware on what defenses are trying to do to him each week. While he’s had better years than 2017, the fact remains that you could argue that he was the best football player all season long. What an achievement for the guy who is only 10 years away from AARP.
The LaDainian Tomlinson Golden Football Award: (Fantasy MVP)
2017 Preseason Prediction: Le’Veon Bell
“There may be contention on who the greatest football player of all time is, but in terms of a fantasy award, the numbers never lie. Of the 20 greatest fantasy seasons ever, according to point totals, Tomlinson’s name appears on the list an astounding three times. This includes the number one spot on the list – his 2006 season – when he compiled a mind-boggling 481 fantasy points through his combined 2,323 total yards, 56 receptions, and a still standing NFL record 31 total touchdowns. In just 11 years of service, Tomlinson finished sixth all-time in rushing yards, second in rushing touchdowns, third in total touchdowns, and third all-time amongst running backs in receptions. He’s one of only three backs ever to catch more than 100 balls in a season, while he is also the only back in NFL history to finish in the top seven at his position for eight consecutive seasons. His average NFL season reads as follows... 1,245 rushing yards, 434 receiving yards, 57 receptions, and 15 total touchdowns. When really boiled down into those terms, it’s tough to find a more perfect example of a fantasy MVP than LT.”
Todd Gurley, RB, LAR – I’ve laid it all out there for Gurley already. He led the league in total touchdowns and was the hottest player in football down the stretch of the season. He racked up over 1,300 rushing yards and registered nearly 800 receiving yards. Most importantly he led the league in fantasy points, and he did it by a long shot.
Russell Wilson, QB, SEA – Wilson finished second in overall fantasy points this season on the grounds of being the best dual threat quarterback the league has ever seen. He obviously led his team in every passing category, including leading the league in passing touchdowns, but he also surprisingly led the Seahawks in every rushing category as well. When all was said and done in 2017, Wilson had mind-blowingly accounted for over 80-percent of the Seahawks total offense.
Le'Veon Bell, RB, PIT – Bell was my preseason prediction, which at the beginning of the season was rather controversial considering the fact that he was holding out and that David Johnson was coming off of the season that he just did. It took some time, but after the first month of the season, Bell was right back into gear. He finished third in total fantasy points, second amongst running backs, while he led the league in touches by nearly 100. That type of workload is one that he may regret down the line, but it’s one that fantasy owners loved to see all year long.
Alvin Kamara, RB, NO – I’ve already explained what’s to love about Kamara, but here’s the recap. He was an unheralded rookie who accomplished in 12 games what only three other players were to best in 16 games this fantasy season. He proved that he could take any touch to the house, while his dual threat skill-set gave coach Sean Payton a dynamic that his offense hasn’t seen since Reggie Bush. He nearly set a modern yards per carry record, he set a rookie all-purpose yards record (per touch) and he managed to do all of this while operating out of the lesser touch end of a split backfield. It can be argued that Kamara had one of the best rookie seasons of all time… He appears to be the future of the position in the NFL.
Todd Gurley, RB, LAR – Gurley’s travels from worst to first this season won him this award. He finished 2016 as the league’s most disappointing back, while in 2017 he blew the competition away. His season this year will be remembered long from now as not only his ascension to being the best back in football, but also what put coach Sean McVay on the map. Most importantly, his year will be remembered as the one that won many of you fantasy championships. It is not often that a player taken outside of the first round can end up being far and away the best fantasy option all season long. Gurley accomplished that this season. Congratulations to him and congratulations to those of you who won money off of his success.
The All-Fantasy Alarm Team
“Of all of the other awards and honors that I have likely over-described in this article, this will be by far the most straight forward… The All-FA Team lists the highest scoring player at each position in what is largely accepted as a standardized fantasy football roster.”
QB: Russell Wilson, SEA (347.9 pts)
RB: Todd Gurley, LAR (383.3 pts)
WR: DeAndre Hopkins, HOU (309.8 pts)
K: Greg Zuerlein, LAR (180.0 pts)
“2017 was certainly a season for the ages and it ebbed and flowed in a lot of unique ways. Positively, we saw the reemergence of Todd Gurley to the point of receiving an MVP (at least our MVP) after a terrible sophomore year, while several future Hall of Famers proved that they still had plenty left in the tank despite being in the twilight of their careers. A kicker – Greg Zuerlein – managed to rep his position unlike it has commonly been in the past, as he outscored every tight end save for three in the entire league. Most inspiring though, was the player’s response to the early season hurricanes that left states and cities in ruin. Texans defensive end J.J. Watt in particular raised over $40 million to rebuild the southern parts of this country.
Unfortunately though, this NFL season wasn’t all heartwarming stories…
On the disappointing side of things, the NFL not only once again failed to define what a catch is, causing painstakingly long video reviews and underwhelming officiating outcomes, but it also on a much more serious note, struggled with it’s place in American society. Through unclear stances on kneeling and it’s shady disapproval of the American justice system (See: Goodell’s Gestapo and Ezekiel Elliott ruling), the NFL largely dragged itself through the media mud in 2017. On the field countless top-tier players saw their season’s cut far too short due to catastrophic injury, further brining into question the long-term viability of the sport (according to the more casual fan at least).
Going forward, the league can only go up from here. Getting star players back and healthy next season will be huge, while the ever-increasing amount of fantasy players each day continues to bring more and more eyes to the sport. If the competition committee does it’s part and strips down the language on what defines a “catch” then this league will be in a better place than it was a season ago.
Happy New Year everyone and enjoy these NFL playoffs to come. If your team didn’t make it, just remember… the Draft is only 114 days away!”