Welcome to the official 2016 Fantasy Football Awards Show, presented by RotoBaller.
I’m your host, Nick Mariano, and today we’re honoring some of the fine football players, coaches and teams who have had outstanding (for better or worse) performances this season. We’ve been left hanging our heads in the showers some weeks, while others saw us dancing into the end zone like this fella:
It’s always a bittersweet affair when the fantasy football season ends, but it’s always in our best interest to appreciate the madness. Now, without this particular excuse to give our lives to something bigger than us all, we have to learn how to become functional members of society again on Sundays (and Thursdays, and Mondays, and occasionally Saturdays later in the season, not to mention all of those precious research hours. Sigh.)
On with the show!
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Most Valuable Player: David Johnson
If you drafted David Johnson, then you probably also have a trophy right now. Johnson was a monster in 2016, scoring 20 total touchdowns (16 rushing, 4 receiving) with over 2,000 total yards. His 879 receiving yards went alongside the 1,239 rushing yards to make him a dynamic option even in standard leagues, but boy, those 80 catches (which led all RBs) just took his PPR game to a whole other level. While Arizona took a step back as a team, we all appreciate the sacrifice they made in order to give us a near-unanimous MVP pick here.
Rookie of the Year: Ezekiel Elliott
WOW, WHAT A ROBBERY. I thought for sure this would go to Devontae Booker. Real talk, Zeke was one of the more contentious picks toward the first and second rounds entering this season. And rightfully so, he was an unproven rookie after all. Well, he soon erased all doubts by embarking on a rookie campaign that saw him score 16 total TDs while averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Yes, his offensive line is astounding, but Elliott still had to deliver the mail. While he fell six yards shy of 2,000 total, you know he won’t care thanks to locking up this prestigious award.
Best QB: Matt Ryan
Edging out Aaron Rodgers by two votes, Matty Ice gets to take home some nice hardware before setting up for his real-life playoff run. This is the real prize though, naturally. While Rodgers put up more points, his early-season scuffles and Week 15 fantasy-playoff dud against the Bears likely weighed on minds here. Meanwhile, Ryan led a high-flying Falcons attack that averaged 33.8 points per game (New Orleans was second at only 29.3) and capped off his season with a fantasy-playoff run that saw him score at least two TDs in each of his last four games. He deserves it.
Best RB: Le’Veon Bell
I don’t feel like double-dipping here with David Johnson, so we’re going to the man who garnered three fewer votes. Even though Bell missed the first three games of the season due to suspension, the man still racked up 1,884 total yards with 75 catches. Yes, with only 13 games under his belt he still nearly outperformed Johnson. However, his bottom line was dinged due to only scoring nine touchdowns. That’s what you get for playing on a team with Antonio Brown.
Best WR: Jordy Nelson
Wow, okay this one was a hotly-contested three-horse race between Nelson, Mike Evans and Antonio Brown. My heart wanted to vote for Evans, but my head went with Nelson. Brown was difficult for me to include because of a few sub six-point standard games, whereas Nelson just had the one dud in Week 7. This also hurt Evans’ stock with that Week 13-15 TD-less stretch where he didn’t top 60 yards in a game, despite his monstrous open to the season. That left Nelson, whose 14 TDs led all WRs and who beasted for at least 12 points in each of his fantasy playoff games from Weeks 14-16. This was capped off by an elite 9-154-2 line thanks to Minnesota’s ego-laden DBs, but reason doesn’t matter. Stats win ‘ships.
Best TE: Travis Kelce
Another unanimous selection here, as Kelce’s “strong-like-bull” second half propelled many of his owners into the winner’s circle. His 1,125 receiving yards led all TEs, despite his having only 276 through his first six games of the season. From Weeks 8-16 all he did was pop off for 841 yards, as he provided a reliable floor thanks to six of those nine games resulting in 100+ yard efforts from the KC stud. While his four touchdowns were lacking, we’ll certainly take it in a season where lackluster TE play burned many owners.
Most Improved: Melvin Gordon
What a difference a year – and an offensive line that isn’t entirely in the hospital ward – can do for a guy! In case you forgot (read: buried it deep within the depths of your soul with the time when a clown wouldn’t stop following you around at your fourth birthday party), Gordon didn’t score a single touchdown last season alongside a mere 641 rushing yards in his 14 games. He turned that around in his sophomore season by scoring 12 total TDs (10 rushing) on 997 ground yards in 13 games. He also totaled 419 receiving yards with Danny Woodhead on the shelf for much of the year. Even with his late-season knee injury, he’s got some nice momentum heading into 2017.
Biggest Flop: Allen Robinson
As @*%&# if. The player we had come to know as “AR-15” thanks to his incredible firepower turned into a wet noodle in 2016. His own setbacks in route-running were compounded by Blake Bortles joining the wet-noodle party and Gus Bradley failing to fix it. Robinson’s beautiful sophomore 80-1,400-14 line turned into an ugly 73-883-6 pumpkin, even with his 147-yard Week 16 effort that was a slap in the face of everyone who drafted him. Bonus points on the slap if the original drafter was his opponent in a Week 16 championship. What a jerk.
UDFA Gold: Jordan Howard
A RoY honorable mention, Howard somehow put up 1,313 rushing yards and six ground TDs behind a 5.2 YPC mark on an otherwise-barren Bears squad. One of my few bright preseason moments was telling my friend to draft Howard late because Jeremy Langford was, how do you say, not good. Howard’s 111-yard Week 4 marked the true beginning of his stellar rookie campaign, and seven 100+ yard rushing games later he was responsible for the championships of many fantasy owners who had lost hope in the opening weeks.
Midseason Savior: Tyreek Hill
Another rookie took a bit longer to blossom, but hot dog was he fun to watch when he finally broke out. Did you know Hill actually caught a touchdown in Week 1? It was his only catch, but it did happen. No, it wasn’t until Week 8’s 5-98-1 receiving line where we really perked up. That was his first game logging over 18 snaps in a contest, after all. He never dipped below 25 after that showing, as Kansas City realized they had Dante Hall 2.0 on their hands. Hill went on to score 12 total touchdowns, with six through the air, three on the ground and three in the return game. A whopping eight of them came in his last six games of the season. Yeah, he left a mark alright.
Most Consistent: DeMarco Murray
Again, this would go to David Johnson if I were in the business of being lazy and not looking for excuses to talk about more players. HOWEVER, we’re giving it the second-place finisher here, Mr. Murray, so I can wax poetic about how he put up 10+ points in half-PPR formats in each of his first 14 games of the season. Naturally, his worst showing came in many owners’ championship weeks in a Week 16 thrashing at the hands of Jacksonville, but we’re not here to sweat minor details like that. Did I mention that he did much of this stellar work with a torn plantar plate? I’m no doctor, but plates aren’t meant to be torn.
Most Underappreciated: Frank Gore
Gore’s name has to be synonymous with “underappreciated” at this point, right? It wasn’t a landslide by any means, with guys like Kyle Rudolph and Rishard Matthews falling a couple of votes, but Gore is still the poster boy for being overlooked. Even his own team seemingly overlooked him when they started giving Robert Turbin the goal-line touches toward the end of the season. Still, Gore did his thing and tallied 1,025 rushing yards in his fifth straight season of starting 16 games. Yes, durability can be underappreciated as well.
Biggest Headache: Allen Robinson
Remember when I said I wanted every chance to talk about other players? Well, that notion is defenestrated when it comes to bashing Robinson. Seriously, what the hell?
He was the only repeat name (with two votes) to this question, which quaintly illustrates how beautiful the horrors of playing fantasy football are. Basically, everyone is a headache. Notable mentions were Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Benjamin, Ryan Mathews, DeAndre Hopkins, Brandon Marshall and Mark Ingram.
Where’d You Go?: Marvin Jones Jr.
‘Member when Jones diddy-bopped on Green Bay for 205 yards and two touchdowns? Through the first three weeks of the season, Detroit’s next Megatron had turned 29 targets into 18 catches for 408 yards and the two scores. He started to see his targets drop but staved off disaster by catching a TD in Weeks 5 and 6. After that, the end zone apparently became a password-protected area where Jones would stubbornly type “guest” over and over again. Like damn, just try “12345” or something. Alas, the rest of his season was a total mess despite the Lions’ offense really coming together toward the midseason. Everyone pour one out to the tunes of Fort Minor in memory of Marvin.
Best Fantasy Team: Atlanta Falcons
We mentioned before how the Falcons averaged 4.5 more points per game than the next-best team, right? That’s quite something. With Ryan, Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Julio Jones and Taylor Gabriel turning in solid fantasy totals, the Falcons were the offense you’d never stream a defense against.
"I'm Not Drafting Him in 2017": Rob Gronkowski
There was a three-way tie between Gronkowski, Kelvin Benjamin and Matt Jones. I love that those names are attached to him. With the tie served up to me before casting the final ballot, my choice was clear and my soapbox is now.
Don’t draft him. The cost is always too high for a tight end that early anyway. Yes, we saw “peak-Gronk” in Weeks 5-8, when he either surpassed 100 yards or caught a TD in each game. What a wondrous sight to behold, blah blah blah. I don’t deny that the guy is gifted with size, speed and talent at a position where consistent top-tier performance is hard to find. But the guy is way too big of a liability at this point in his career when you account for his usual ADP, and the opportunity cost of passing up on an RB or WR with an early-round pick is not worth it. He’s had three surgeries on herniated discs. Pass. I respect the risk-takers who will roll the dice for his upside, but pass.
The Handsome Squidward Award: Michael Thomas
I first saw this comparison on Twitter back in early October and it had me dying. Mostly I just wanted an excuse to talk about Thomas, because he honestly had a legitimate claim to some RoY votes and being the aforementioned UDFA gold. Thomas showed himself to be a reliable option for Drew Brees and the Saints alongside the volatile Brandin Cooks. His 92 catches and 1,137 yards both led the rookie class, and his nine TDs trailed only Tyreek Hill out of first-year players.
The “Mike Tolbert” Vulture of the Year: Robert Turbin
This could’ve gone to Matt Asiata, but even he at least had 402 rushing yards to go with his six TDs. Turbin, on the other hand, had seven rushing touchdowns on only 47 carries with 164 yards. He even sprinkled in some additional rudeness with a three-yard receiving TD in Week 16. Congratulations, Robert Tolbert.
The Whitest Sneakers Award: Justin Tucker
Yes, Tucker usually wears black cleats and not white sneakers, but being honored with a Dundie Award from Michael Scott supersedes all logic. One could be given some “Golden Boot” nonsense, but “Whitest Sneakers” is even more prestigious – with only Pam Beesly having taken it home before now.
Kickers don’t get a lot of love, and I’m all for them being wrapped into the D/ST bundle instead of being a standalone position, but there’s no denying that many leagues still utilize them. Fantasy owners who had Tucker in those leagues got to enjoy Tucker’s 38-for-39 kicking on field goals, as well as going 27-for-27 on extra points. The 38 FGs made were three more than second place, so here you go Mr. Tucker.
The Payday Award: LeGarrette Blount
When you score 18 touchdowns over 16 games, you’re likely going to be a valuable commodity. He only failed to find pay dirt in three games, and in one of those he turned in 124 yards in lieu of the easy six. Just when we had all become accustomed to Bill Belichick’s wild ride where running back performance would be a weekly carousel between the bruising Blount and the shiftier James White or Dion Lewis, 2016 came along and saw Blount get absolutely fed.
The John Cena Award: Adam Thielen
Just when it seemed like Thielen’s solid momentum had been waylaid by a Week 15 head injury, all of a sudden Scott Hanson extolled, “that’s Adam Thielen’s music!” as Week 16 saw him pop off with an insane 12-catch, 202-yard and two touchdown effort against the Packers in a heroic effort. He didn’t do anything crazy throughout the season, but in the end he was the one holding the belt as the highest scorer of the “Big Week”, the pay-per-view event.
The Bermuda Triangle Award: The Los Angeles Rams
This is where all fantasy appeal goes to die. The case of Todd Gurley was a curious one, but it was only when Kenny Britt brought the body count up to two that the authorities got involved. Scientists have announced a follow-up study to determine whether this is a localized phenomena to the team itself or if it emanates from Jeff Fisher. Stay far away, folks.