You shouldn’t be here.
Well, you should if you are looking to be entertained, playing in a weekly league like the ones at DraftKings.com, or you just want to see my awards for 2012. If you are here for my weekly Starts, Sits and Bluffs, though, you shouldn’t be here.
Before we get any further, know that playing in Week 17 in insane. If you read Given Up this week, you already know the majority of my feelings, so I’ll sum it up quicker in this piece. Numerous times I’ve covered how luck-laden Fantasy Football is. Playing in Week 17 only compounds the issue. Don’t tarnish your league’s title by letting matchups be decided by second and third stringers. It’s just plain wrong. And no, there is not one person that can accurately predict which teams will rest players for the full game, part of it or not at all during the week leading up to the final Sunday. Forget trying to predict it weeks ago in order to make the necessary moves; it’s lunacy.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s hand out some awards for 2012. After all it’s fun to look back once the stress is over.
Michael Vick Award – goes to the player who misses time or games, thereby destroying his value, as his talent far supersedes the value returned on his draft cost: Hakeem Nicks.
I bet you expected another name here. Look, Maurice Jones-Drew is the obvious pick being a Top 10 selection this year. However, MJD had decent numbers (not first round worthy) before missing the rest of the season, and then was done. On the other hand, Nicks lit up the Fantasy world in Week 2, was injured himself, and then was a shell of himself from Week 6 through the goose egg in Week 16. No player frustrated owners more as they struggled to bench such a talent, yet watched as he disappointed most weeks.
Apologies to: MJD, Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeMarco Murray, Rob Gronkowski, Greg Jennings, Darren McFadden (but c’mon, really surprised by him?).
John Carter Award – biggest flop of 2012: Ryan Mathews
The guy has all the talent in the world and he had the Chargers backfield to himself this year. The hype far outreached his production. We saw Mathews drafted in the Top 20 as the eighth RB on average. That put him ahead of Murray, Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson (yea, let that sink in), Trent Richardson, Marshawn Lynch (owners just don’t have enough respect for this man) and many more. Mathews topped eight FP once, rushed over 80 yards once (95 season-high) and saw his season end in Week 15 due to, what do you know, an injury.
Apologies to: Larry Fitzgerald, Darren Sproles, Matthew Stafford, Vernon Davis, Antonio Gates, Philip Rivers.
Twinkies Award – please don’t be the end of you, we always forget how great you are: Tony Gonzalez
Maybe he felt the disrespect of being drafted after Davis, Gates, Jermichael Finley and Fred Davis on average, or it could just be that too many disregarded him too early. Either way, Gonzalez is the leading Fantasy tight end – sure, injuries to Gronk and Jimmy Graham help – but, we still want to see him back in 2013, just like the Twinkie.
Apologies to: Peyton Manning, Frank Gore, Reggie Wayne.
Fantasy Kicker Award (aka, date night to a movie involving vampires with feelings) – it’s a necessary evil, but boy, some weeks we wish they didn’t exist: Team Defenses in 2012
Okay, you’re confused. I have long campaigned to rid Fantasy Football of kickers – there is no skill in picking them. No one wants to lose because Rob Bironas racked up 19 FP (Week 14, 2009). However, Team Defenses took the cake this year. No, I don’t and won’t ever want to eliminate them, but in my leagues I have reduced their scoring ability. After all, the Bears scored 20 or more FP five times, Denver hit 28 twice and Seattle blasted everyone with 39 in Week 14. The Chargers just had 24, and previously scored 26 and 20 this year, while six more teams hit the 20-plus mark twice and another six at least once. Defenses swung matchups severely this year, and when you have units such as the Cowboys, Giants, Dolphins and Vikings checking in as one of those teams with 20-plus games, you know it was an insane year.
Apologies to: Well, kickers
Cam Newton Award – The rookie who was most like, well, Cam Newton (aka Fantasy Rookie of the Year): Robert Griffin… I know, shocker!
I had Griffin as my 13th QB in the preseason. I base all of my rankings on 12-team leagues (the only way to play), so RG3 just missed on being a QB1. I just couldn’t put a rookie QB in the Top 12, even after Cam’s 2011 season. The added concern with RG3 was what we just experienced: he’s more like Vick than Cam. I noted that there is much more risk that RG3 will suffer an injury because of his Vick-like size than Cam, both for this year and over his career. Even with a missed game, though, RG3 sits as the fifth-highest scoring Fantasy QB behind Cam and ahead of Peyton. I have to say, rookie QBs may be this decade’s rookie RBs.
Apologies to: Andrew Luck, Doug Martin, Trent Richardson, Alfred Morris
All In Player of the Year – awarded to the best “call” I had in the preseason: Matt Ryan
Time and again, I called Ryan “the 2012 version of 2011 Eli Manning.” I said that like Manning, Ryan would take that “next step” given his weapons and ability, similar to what Eli did in 2011. Well, Ryan’s pace has him slightly behind Eli’s yardage from 2011, but he’s already topped his TD count (31 to 29) and cracked the Top Seven QBs for his first time in Fantasy. That’s great production and great value from the 11th QB taken behind players such as Eli himself (sits at 19th overall), Rivers (21st), Vick (27th), and Stafford (10th).
Apologies to: Tony Romo (my eight ranked QB), Lynch (fourth ranked RB), Charles (ninth), Trent Richardson (10th), Eric Decker (18th ranked WR – and still not high enough), and Vick Ballard and T.Y. Hilton who were sleepers of mine, although both far exceeded expectations.
Busted Call of the Year – only fair that I share my worst “call” that busted: Brandon Lloyd
The silver platter? Yea, it was sitting in front of Lloyd this season. Everything was there: back with Josh McDaniels again (was a beast every time he played in McDaniels’ offense), playing with the best QB he’s ever seen, in a high-powered offense and an offense in which he wasn’t the main threat for defenses to take away. What was the result? Well, you know by now. Even with his two-week explosion of late, Lloyd still ranks 27th at WR, and I had him 14th in the preseason, with expectations for more. Yep, receivers such as Marques Colston, Steve Smith, Dez Bryant, Vincent Jackson and Demaryius Thomas fell behind Lloyd in my eyes. After all, Lloyd couldn’t blow this dream scenario for a WR… could he?
Apologies to: Rivers – didn’t have him in the Top 10 at QB, but expected a bounceback season at least, and most of the rest were injury related with DMC, Fred Jackson, Greg Jennings, Antonio Brown, Kenny Britt and Aaron Hernandez.
2012 Fantasy MVP – pretty sure no explanation needed and going to save name for the end
I could go with the aforementioned RG3 given his return value (13th QB taken, eighth round overall) or even the more popular pick of Doug Martin (20th RB, sixth round), but I have an issue with both: they failed you when you most needed them. RG3 missed Week 15 to injury and was less than himself in Week 16, and Martin cost many teams their playoff lives due to his two points in Week 15 in his most favorable matchup of the year. Drew Brees narrowly misses thanks to his three-point game in Week 13, Aaron Rodgers had too many mediocre games for the top-picked QB and Cam’s first half likely had many teams in a hole or trading Cam out of desperation. Tom Brady comes closest for QBs, but he too had a few low-level double-digit scores, including a gift matchup last week for many team’s title hopes. Adrian Peterson was on track. After a slow start (expected after the surgery he had), ADP was on fire until Houston bottled him up, for the most part. Alfred Morris probably came closest, and has his own award with the “About Stinkin’ Time Mike Shanahan Award” for a RB whom Shanny finally stuck with for more than two weeks. Plus, ALF wasn’t even drafted in early-drafting leagues, was still only a late-rounder as the season neared and is the sixth-highest scoring RB. However, he only came close…
So, who is my pick? Calvin “not even quadruple teams can stop me” Johnson. Yes, his three of four poor weeks from Weeks 4-8 (bye week in there) hurt, but it was early, and unlike the QB position, WRs have less impact… that is, until you do what Calvin did from Week 9 on. Since then, Megatron averaged 10.9 catches and 179.1 yards – AVERAGED! Toss in four receiving TDs and you have an average of 20.0 FPPG, 30.9 in PPR leagues. Let that sink in. Brady, the leading Fantasy scorer and a QB, averaged 20.7 FPPG this year. On top of that, Calvin’s production came at the most important time, as from Weeks 13-16 he never had fewer than 10 catches or less than 118 yards. With all of that said, I ask you, how can it not be Calvin Johnson as the 2012 Fantasy MVP?!
ACES IN THE HOLE (Guaranteed a Fantasy Title): Tony Romo, DAL; Jamaal Charles, KC; Dex Bryant, DAL – Congrats to those that listened when I said, “Romo can win a title, your Fantasy Football title!”… Charles certainly made up for last week’s stinker, if his owners were lucky enough to survive… Congrats again to those who believed me the past two weeks when I said Dez’s finger wasn’t an issue. Shoot, the man could play with one hand it seems.
RIVER RAT (Surprising Top Performances): Joe Flacco, BAL; Ryan Grant, GB; Doug Baldwin, SEA – Flacco was as maddening as they come this year, but if you had him starting Week 16, kudos – and you’ve got guts… The Packers haven’t had a RB top 90 yards, Grant had little juice left and John Kuhn and even Aaron Rodgers see goal line carries. So, go figure that Grant would rush for 80 yards and two scores… Like Grant, there were almost no owners using Baldwin for their championship. Well, guess who caught two TD passes from Russell Wilson? It wasn’t Golden Tate or Sidney Rice, that’s for sure.
GUT SHOT (Let Everyone Down): Robert Griffin, WAS; Frank Gore, SF, Chris Johnson, TEN, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, CIN, Arian Foster, HOU; Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, NYG, Danny Amendola, STL – Not that 13 FP is a poor showing, but it is RG3 and was against Philly. We expect much better at this point… Take your pick at RB, but Foster (granted it was due to injury) had to be the biggest heartbreak during the championship week… Nicks is less of a disappointment, even with a zero, as smart owners avoided him where they could. Cruz and especially Amendola, in a golden matchup while coming off a big game, were both tremendous letdowns at the worst time.
Breakdown: Hold ‘Em – start them and/or players I like more than most rankings have them. Fold ‘Em – outright sit them; don’t consider them start-worthy in standard-sized leagues. Bluffs – still start them, but I like them less than most rankings and they will disappoint.
Since it’s Week 17, and I’m going to avoid many teams with “are the starters playing” questions, it’ll be an abbreviated list.
Peyton Manning, DEN (KC) – My Ranking 4: Even though their shot at home-field advantage may be gone by game time (if Houston wins), Denver can still clinch a bye with a win. You think Peyton won’t do everything possible to make that happen?
Matt Ryan, ATL (TB) – MR 9: Yes, I know Atlanta has nothing to play for this week, but I’ll still take half of a game from Ryan over the likes of Eli Manning, Michael Vick, Ben Roethlisberger, etc. It’s against the Bucs after all, and Ryan could put up full-game stats in no time.
Knowshon Moreno, DEN (KC) – MR 8: As mentioned, Denver has a ton at stake, the Chiefs just let Cleveland and Oakland notch 21 FP each at the RB position and Moreno has 20-plus carries in five straight games with an average of 16.3 FPPG over the last three.
LeSean McCoy, PHI (@NYG) – MR 9: McCoy’s last five rushing totals versus the Giants: 123, 113, 128, 64, 111. Noticing the 64? That was on 10 carries and in a game in which they were down early and big. The Giants can’t stop McCoy, especially this year’s defensive version.
Shonn Greene, NYJ (@BUF) – MR 17: Bilal Powell, injury or not, gave way to Greene in the last game and even lost ground due to his three carries for negative three yards. No one allows more FP to RBs than the Bills, a team that has also allowed a rushing TD in three straight games and 60 FP to RBs in the last two.
Victor Cruz, NYG (PHI) – MR 11: Sure, it’s tough to trust him after the last two weeks.
However, if the Giants have any prayer of making the playoffs, they’ll need some salsa dancing instead of kneeling and folding their hands. Cruz had nine catches, 109 yards and one TD in the first meeting, and that was a game without Hakeem Nicks. And that might as well be the case even if Nicks suits up given his ability (or lack thereof) to play at 100 percent.
Miles Austin, DAL (@WAS) – MR 16: Most of Tony Romo’s passes are going Dez Bryant’s way, but don’t forget about Austin. He found the end zone against the Saints and Eagles in the past four weeks, and Washington is near the top when it comes to allowing FP to WRs (25.7 FPPG).
Antonio Gates, SD (OAK) – MR 7: He was a “Bluff” last week, but Gates managed to find the end zone and save his Fantasy day with 10 FP. I actually like his chances of making it three straight games with a score. The Raiders had a stretch where they allowed four TDs in five games and an average of 11.6 FPPG to tight ends.
Buffalo Bills (NYJ) – MR 12: One stat for you: 11 sacks! Okay, might as well mention the added interception and fumble recovery last week too. That’s what propelled the Chargers D/ST (along with a punt return TD) to 24 FP. Even without the punt return, 11 sacks are beyond enough reason to start the Bills D/ST against the Jets.
Andy Dalton, CIN (@NYJ) – MR 19: The only thing that can change for Cincy is whether they are the fifth or sixth seed. With the 1-3 seeds all up in the air, the Bengals likely don’t care. That rhymed… throw your hands up in the air and wave them around like you just don’t care… sorry. Back to Dalton, the Ravens are still quite good against the pass, and Dalton managed just five FP in the first meeting. Sure, it was Week 1, but will we even see Dalton for a full game? Can’t count on it.
Joe Flacco, BAL (@ARZ) – MR 20: The same goes for Flacco. The Ravens are locked into the fourth seed and truly have nothing to play for. Don’t be surprised to see Baltimore rest several players in the second half.
Michael Turner, ATL (TB) – MR 32: I trust Matt Ryan for a half of football, Turner, no chance in heck! He’s averaging 38.3 rushing YPG since Week 10 with three sub-20 efforts!
Beanie Wells, ARZ (@SF) – MR 46: He’s as close to unranked as you can get. I warned about Wells last week (three yards, negative two FP), and this week in San Fran with the 49ers looking to clinch a bye? Fuggedaboutit!
Hakeem Nicks, NYG (PHI) – MR 33: Check back to the Cruz breakdown. Or, just look at Nicks’ “breakdown” this year. Nicks is far from 100 percent and hasn’t topped seven FP without a TD catch this year. Plus, he was just blanked last week!
Josh Gordon, CLE (@PIT) – MR 41: Not sure how many times I have to say it (or have said it, at least 10 weeks in a row) but Gordon is the epitome of “boom or bust.” Since Week 5 where he broke out against the Giants, Gordon has four double-digit FP games, which is two less than the number of games with six FP or less. Last week, he had just one catch for seven yards and zero FP. That came against Denver, and Pittsburgh is no less forgiving to WRs.
Vernon Davis, SF (ARZ) – MR 18: Davis might not even play, and we could see Delaine Walker out there. Even if Davis starts, do you really want to play the man at this point? Davis has five catches and four FP in his last five games! Read that twice just to make sure it sinks in. You have to wonder if Davis hit on Colin Kaepernick’s girl at this point, no? Why else would CK hate him?
St. Louis Rams (@SEA) – MR 22: The Rams are actually the 10th ranked scoring defense. However, and that’s a BIG however, did you see what the Seahawks just did to the 49ers at home? Their own defense was a major factor in their 42 points scored and zero-point game forced on the 49ers D/ST. There are just too many ways for the Seahawks to score these days to risk using the Rams.
Andrew Luck, IND (HOU) – MR 15: The Colts have little to play for as well, but would likely prefer the Ravens over the Patriots, Broncos or Texans. That might give Indy some reason to keep Luck out there, but then again, if they win, they could face the Texans again in the first round. Dilemma, dilemma, dilemma. The Texans will have more desire to lock in home-field than Indy will to win, and the Colts won’t want to risk their franchise QB’s healthy too long. I’d avoid the risk if I could.
Ray Rice, BAL (@CIN) – MR 12: At twelve, I’m still starting him, but if I could have ranked Rice lower, I would have. In fact, if his name wasn’t Ray Rice, I certainly would have. Again, the Ravens playoff situation is set, and why would they risk an injury to their best player. With Anquan Boldin already questionable, the injury concern has to be on the team’s mind even more.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, CIN (BAL) – MR 22: Just like the QBs in this matchup, I’m not a fan of either RB in a game with no meaning. Added to that, BJGE struggled (that’s an understatement) against Pittsburgh last week. I can see the Bengals giving Green-Ellis some rest to gear up for next week, in what could be the third matchup between these teams.
Reggie Wayne, IND (HOU) – MR 19: See: Luck, Andrew. At 19, Wayne is still start worthy, but even 19 makes me feel uncomfortable. No one expected Wayne to be this good again given his age and a rookie QB, and given his age and wear-and-tear, I’m sure the Colts will want to ensure his health for the playoffs.
Torrey Smith, BAL (@CIN) – MR 30: Broken record alert: team with no reason to push it, starters resting, Boldin hurting, so why add risk, etc.?
Jermaine Gresham, CIN (BAL) – MR 13: While Gresham has been consistent in PPR leagues, standard leaguers have watched as Gresham posted 7, 4, 6 and 3 FP over the last four games. The Ravens allow just 5.5 per game to TEs and rank as the third toughest matchup. One last time: with little incentive for either team, I’m not playing most Ravens or Bengals unless I have to.