In the beginning of every new year comes the time where we delete the fantasy football application from our phones to free up valuable space on our home screens for six months. To celebrate another successful – or for some, unsuccessful – fantasy season, it is time to hand out some imaginary trophies.
IT’S TIME FOR THE 2017 FANTASY PONY AWARDS!
Most Valuable: Todd Gurley – Los Angeles Rams, RB
After spending his sophomore season in Jeff Fisher purgatory, Gurley made his case for being the top pick in 2018 fantasy drafts by establishing himself as the NFL’s top running back this season.
Gurley led all non-quarterbacks with 19 touchdowns and set career highs in rushing yards (1,305), receptions (64) and receiving yards (788). The former Georgia Bulldog was the top producing fantasy player this year regardless of format and had a killer return on investment (ROI) based on draft position with an ADP in the high teens.
There is no question that Gurley was the most impressive player in fantasy this season, but this is the part of “MVP” conversations that can get annoying: when someone tries to find a reason to not go with the obvious choice.
You’ve got your studs who properly met expectations in Pittsburgh (Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown) or Houston’s Deandre Hopkins with his great ROI in a bounce-back season, but I had one particular player that I couldn’t get out of my head when thinking about this award: New Orleans RB Alvin Kamara.
I REALLY wanted to get cute and make an argument for Kamara and it’s really not that crazy when you look at the fantasy regular season.
Gurley sprinted out of the gate and clearly outpaced the rookie through the season’s first seven weeks. It took a while for the Saints to realize what they had, but once they did beginning with Gurley’s bye week in Week 8, Kamara not only outscored Gurley in each week from Weeks 8 through 13, but he was far-and-away the highest scoring RB in fantasy during that stretch.
There are a lot of teams who made the playoffs because of Alvin Kamara’s performance down the stretch and when you add in the fact that Kamara was likely a free agent pickup (ESPN ADP of 183 overall) as opposed to Gurley being a second/third rounder in fantasy drafts last season, it’s more than reasonable to make the case based on your definition of “value” (especially in keeper leagues).
But heroes are made in the postseason and the case for Gurley as fantasy’s Grand Champion was made when he became an angry Bruce Banner and smashed during the most important weeks of the fantasy season.
Check out these numbers:
Week 14: 96 rushing yards, 3 rec for 39 yards, 2 TD
Week 15: 152 rushing yards, 3 rec for 28 yards, 4 TD
Week 16: 118 rushing yards, 10 rec for 158 yards, 2 TD
Gurley was a stud from bell-to-bell and came through in the fantasy playoffs as well as anyone in recent memory. Not a hard choice and if you were lucky enough to have him, I hope you enjoyed your championship.
Honorable Mention: Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Alvin Kamara
Least Valuable Player: Terrelle Pryor – Washington Redskins, WR
With an average ADP in the late third/early fourth as a top-15 receiver off the board, Pryor was highly touted entering the 2017 season after showing flashes of brilliance for the Cleveland Browns in 2016. Entering a new, potentially high-powered offense with the more-than-capable Kirk Cousins at the helm, most experts expected big things from Pryor in a Washington uniform.
In the season opener, it looked like Pryor would be a featured part of the offense after hauling in six passes for 66 yards on 11 targets. That did not last long as he quickly found himself on the outside looking in as he plummeted down the depth chart. Pryor did not have another game with more than five targets, never caught more than three passes and had only one game with more than 31 yards to go along with only one touchdown. The former Buckeye never clicked with the Washington offense and totaled 20 receptions for 240 yards and one score before mercifully being shut down after Week 9 following ankle surgery.
Pryor will likely be with another team in 2018 and it will be interesting to see how much of his struggles can be attributed to a bad ankle and an offense that never clicked with his skillset. Regardless of what the future holds, it is unlikely that we will ever see his stock as high as it was entering the 2017 season.
Honorable Mention: Amari Cooper, Demarco Murray, Jay Ajayi
Most Devastating Injury of the Year: David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals, RB
A consensus top-two pick regardless of what site or magazine you fancy, Johnson’s wrist injury in the season opener against Detroit limited the third-year star to 17 touches in 2017.
For those who may have forgotten, 2016 David Johnson accumulated more total yards (2,118), caught more passes (80) and scored more touchdowns (20) than 2017 Todd Gurley. Such a shame.
This injury hit home for me in particular as a beleaguered fantasy owner who spent a No. 1 overall pick on Johnson this year. I found myself experiencing some painful flashbacks to the last time I spent a top-three pick on a stud running back.
The year was 2011. The running back? Jamaal Charles. How many touches did he last before his season-ending injury? 17. Who did he get injured against? The Detroit Lions.
On a related note, the Detroit Lions are my team and 17 is my favorite number. I feel somewhat responsible for both injuries.
Honorable Mention: Odell Beckham Jr., Aaron Rodgers, Dalvin Cook
Rookie of the Year: Alvin Kamara – New Orleans, RB
The Case Keenum “Where the hell did that come from?” Award: Case Keenum – Minnesota Vikings, QB
The Rod Stewart “Forever Young” Award (Player impervious to aging): Larry Fitzgerald – Arizona Cardinals, WR
The “Best Fantasy Player to Rarely Crack Your Starting Lineup” Award: Robert Woods – Los Angeles Rams, WR
The “Worst Fantasy Player to Never Leave Your Starting Lineup” Award: Mike Evans – Tampa Bay Bucaneers, WR
The “He’s Either Done or He’ll Win You A Ring Next Year” Award: Jordy Nelson – Green Bay Packers, WR
The “Way-Too-Early Breakout Candidate for 2018” Award: Derrick Henry – Tennessee Titans, RB
The “Way-Too-Early Bust Candidate for 2018” Award: Mark Ingram –New Orleans Saints, RB
QB: Russell Wilson, Seahawks
RB: Todd Gurley, Rams
RB: Le’Veon Bell, Steelers
WR: Antonio Brown, Steelers
WR: DeAndre Hopkins, Texans
Flex: Alvin Kamara, Saints
TE: Rob Gronkowski, New England
K: Greg Zuerlein, Los Angeles Rams
QB: Matt Ryan, Falcons
RB: Demarco Murray, Titans
RB: Jay Ajayi, Dolphins/Eagles
WR: Amari Cooper, Raiders
WR: Terrelle Pryor, Redskins
Flex: Jordy Nelson, Packers
TE: Hunter Henry, Chargers
K: Whoever was available to kick for the Los Angeles Chargers at the time
QB: Aaron Rodgers, Packers
RB: David Johnson, Cardinals
RB: Dalvin Cook, Vikings
WR: Odell Beckham Jr, Giants
WR: Allen Robinson, Jaguars
Flex: Seattle’s Entire Backfield
TE: Jordan Reed, Redskins (SHOCKER)
K: Dan Bailey, Cowboys (mainly because it led to a safety kicking PATs in a game)
QB: Deshaun Watson, Texans
RB: Alvin Kamara, Saints
RB: Kareem Hunt, Chiefs
WR: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Steelers
WR: Cooper Kupp, Rams
Flex: Leonard Fournette, Jaguars
TE: Evan Engram, Giants
K: Harrison Butker, Kansas City