With the fantasy regular season over for most leagues, fantasy owners are either riding high into the postseason or sobbing over the playoff hopes that melted in their hands, dripped through their fingers, and evaporated into nothingness.
Regardless of which category you belong in, the fantasy regular season is worth celebrating. So before the country searches for a new way to procrastinate at work, let’s hand out some awards and look back at the season that’s in the books.
(All points are based on standard PPR scoring.)
Guy Who Single-Handedly Dragged Your Team to the Playoffs or Turned Your Already Good Team into a Fire-Breathing Dragon: Alvin Kamara, RB, Saints
Kamara started the year third on the Saints’ depth chart behind Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson (lol) and went mostly undrafted in standard ESPN leagues. So naturally, he’s now the third-highest-scoring back in PPR leagues and sits only 6.9 points behind Le’Veon Bell for second place despite having 184 fewer carries. Kamara’s campaign is even more stunning considering that entering Week 4, he was owned in only 11.1 percent of ESPN leagues. Since then, Kamara has had more 30-plus-point games (two) than single-digit games (zero), and he’s now owned in 97.6 percent of leagues, which means 2.4 percent of all fantasy football leagues have vanished Leftovers style.
The Saints rookie also has the most receiving yards and yards per route run of any running back in the league. If you have him, consider sending a gift basket—and add plenty of candy.
The Second-Half Nosedive Award: Kareem Hunt, RB, Chiefs
Hunt had the best start to a career in fantasy football history, exploding for 45.6 points in the Chiefs’ season opener. He followed that up with 25.9-, 25.3-, 16.1-, 14.6-, 16.0-, and 15.7-point performances in PPR leagues in the following six weeks, making him the no. 2 back through Week 7. Since then, he’s dropped to 38th and hasn’t cracked 11 points in a game since mid-October.
Hunt hasn’t hamstrung owners the way other RB1s like Jordan Howard and Jay Ajayi have, as he’s posted only one true dud on the year, but owners who could have traded him for a massive haul earlier in the season now have to wonder if he’s worth starting over the Samaje Perines of the world.
Hunt was dragged into the whirlpool that’s swallowing Kansas City’s offense, as the once 5-0 Chiefs have fallen to 6-6, but there is hope that he’ll make it back to shore. Hunt still leads all running backs in broken tackles—on rushes, on receptions, and overall—and is second in the league in Pro Football Focus's elusive rating. The Chiefs’ offense came to life on Sunday, dropping 31 points and 474 yards on the Jets after head coach Andy Reid handed play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Matt Nagy. If that progress continues, Hunt’s production could jump back up as quickly as it descended.
The Guy Who Rewarded Your Faith: Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers
Keenan Allen was drafted 45th overall on average before the fantasy season, but he was a polarizing draft prospect. Allen’s proponents saw an immensely talented volume monster poised to turn the Big Five of wideouts (Odell Beckham Jr., Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Jordy Nelson, and Mike Evans) into a Big Six. His detractors saw a talented receiver who can’t stay healthy—Allen was coming off a torn ACL in 2016 and a lacerated kidney in 2015. For most of the season, he didn’t fit either evaluation. Through 10 weeks, he had yet to crack 20 PPR points in a week, topped 70 yards receiving only twice, and grabbed just one touchdown. As the fantasy trade deadline approached in mid-November, Allen represented an interesting test of faith for those who expected him to make The Leap: Do you deal him at the deadline or ride it out?
The righteous who kept or acquired Allen have likely ascended to the playoffs, and great shame has been brought upon the nonbelievers. Allen has dropped more than 100 PPR points in the past three weeks combined, quintupling his touchdown total in that span and rising to the no. 3 receiver in fantasy. He’s been a testament to the virtue of patience, and a divine reward for those who believed it would happen all along.
The WR1 Who Misses His Quarterback: Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers
Jordy Nelson, a Kansas native, considers himself a farmer who happens to play football. Thinking in those terms, he might consider his 2017 fantasy season a potentially fertile crop destroyed by blight. Through the first five weeks of the season, Nelson was sixth among fantasy wide receivers and looked poised for another excellent campaign. Then Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone in Week 6 and was placed on IR. Since then, Nelson’s season (and the Packers offense) has gone off of the rails. The telepathic connection between Rodgers and Nelson is the best in football, and Brett Hundley hasn’t been able to replicate plays like Jordy’s bread-and-butter back-shoulder catches along the sideline.
The result is that Nelson, the 10th player drafted on average in ESPN leagues, is the 38th-best receiver in fantasy this season. But even that doesn’t describe how far he’s fallen: Since Week 7, Nelson is 79th among fantasy receivers, hasn’t cracked double-digit points in a single week, and has scored five or fewer points in four of six games.
Fantasy Ghost: Terrelle Pryor, WR, Redskins
After just 15 months of training as a wide receiver, Pryor logged a 1,000-yard campaign with the Browns in 2016 and finished in the top 20 at the position in fantasy. Pryor signed with Washington and its high-octane offense this past spring, and with another offseason of training, he seemed like a potential WR1. Experts and fantasy owners alike bought into the hype, and he was the 35th player drafted on average in ESPN standard leagues, ahead of players like Larry Fitzgerald and Allen.
It turned out that Pryor was the worst thing to invest in since Theranos. Pryor started the season with the following PPR scores: 12.6, 5.1, 3.9, 16.0, 5.3, 3.4, 0, and 3.7. Without the ridiculous target share he got in Cleveland, Pryor couldn’t accrue the same numbers. He was put on injured reserve after Week 11, and he finished his year with 20 catches for 240 yards and one touchdown—60 catches, 1,010 yards, and nine touchdowns shy of his $2 million contract incentive. His 50 total fantasy points this year were less than Julio Jones had in Week 12 alone. Pryor turned down more than $30 million from Cleveland to take the one-year deal with the Redskins, hoping that a great year would yield even more money. So as sad as Pryor’s season was for his fantasy owners, feel worse for Terrelle.
Most Crushing Season-Ending Injuries
5. Allen Robinson
4. Dalvin Cook
3. Chris Thompson
2. Odell Beckham Jr.
1. David Johnson: The idea of Johnson playing feels like a distant memory, or a fading dream—just like the playoff hopes of the owners who took him first overall.
Most Crushing Non–Season Ending Injuries
5. Danny Woodhead
4. Aaron Jones
3. Jordan Reed
2. Aaron Rodgers
1. Greg Olsen: Olsen broke his foot in Week 2, and many owners kept him on their roster for nine weeks, praying for his return. He came back in Week 12 … and left in the third quarter due to his foot. He hasn’t played since.
QBs You Were Ashamed to Add off Waivers and Now Wear Their Jerseys on Sundays: Josh McCown and Case Keenum
In the preseason, Jets quarterback Josh McCown was competing with Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg for the starting job. In the regular season, McCown is only a few spots behind Tom Brady, with 17.2 fantasy points per game to Brady’s 20.0. McCown, a 38-year-old career backup who has played for eight different teams, has somehow become the seventh-best quarterback in fantasy. Since Week 7, when Aaron Rodgers owners were scrambling for a replacement, McCown is the third-ranked fantasy quarterback, behind only Russell Wilson and Carson Wentz. And as for his sudden ascent in real, on-field performance, Ringer editor-in-chief and lifelong Jets fan Sean Fennessey declared in The Ringer’s NFL Slack this week that McCown is “firmly the third-greatest Jets QB ever.”
Minnesota’s Case Keenum, meanwhile, has gone from leading the worst offense in recent NFL history (the 2016 Rams) to leading the no. 6 offense by DVOA in 2017. Keenum doesn’t have as many fantasy points as McCown does this season, but his ownership (57.7 percent) is nearly 20 percentage points higher than McCown’s (39.4 percent)—an indictment of nationwide anti-McCown bias. And Keenum hasn’t failed the fantasy owners who picked him up: He’s dropped 17.5, 24.1, 17.2, 27.3, and 17.0 points over his past five games, meaning anyone who has entrusted their team to Keenum since Halloween has been rewarded.
The Player You Had Never Heard of Until You Added Him Off Waivers and Now Starts for You Every Week: Robby Anderson, WR, Jets
If you claim to have heard of Robby Anderson before this season, you’re either a Jets fan or a liar (and even Jets fans may be lying). Anderson went undrafted in most ESPN leagues this season, probably because he went undrafted by all 32 NFL teams in 2016. But he has scratched and clawed his way from anonymity to reach 14th among fantasy wide receivers this season, and even that is underselling his full impact. His worst performances of the season came at the best time—in four of his first five contests, when literally nobody outside of his family had him on their rosters. Since Week 6, when his ownership began creeping up, he’s been the sixth-best receiver in fantasy football, miles ahead of high draft picks like A.J. Green (23rd) and Mike Evans (26th) in that span. Not bad for a guy who inspired a game of “Jets receiver, TruTV host, or former drummer for the Strokes” in the preseason.
The “Guy Who Gets All His Points in One Week and Therefore Didn’t Really Help You This Season” Award (The Jay Ajayi Memorial Award): Julio Jones, WR, Falcons
Jones, a consensus top-three receiver entering the season, is currently eighth among fantasy wideouts. But he’s been sneakily “meh” this season, as evidenced by all of the Jones fantasy owners frantically nodding along right now. Jones's 50.8-point volcanic eruption against Tampa Bay in Week 12 accounts for more than a quarter of his total points this season—without it, he's averaging just 11.9 points per game.
Jones tends to skyrocket once a year before returning to mediocrity, like turkey the week after Thanksgiving or Taylor Swift the month after her album drops. Last season, a 12-catch, 300-yard, one-touchdown evisceration of the Panthers accounted for one-fifth of his points. While it’s nice that once a season Julio can nearly beat the worst team in your league on his own, he hasn’t produced the reliable numbers expected from a top-five pick in either of the past two seasons.
The Larry Fitzgerald and the Sorcerer’s Stone award: Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals
Larry Fitzgerald, drafted by the Cardinals when the franchise was incepted in 1920, is in the middle of his best fantasy campaign since World War II. At 34, he is the fourth-best receiver in fantasy—the next-best receiver in his 30s is Ted Ginn Jr., who is 30th. Fitzgerald’s consistency this season despite losing starting quarterback Carson Palmer to a broken arm has been remarkable. He’s had 20-plus points in three of the past four weeks, and at least 11 points in all but three of his games. Fitzgerald is truly Old Faithful—he’ll get 100 catches in a season, every season until the cryogenic chamber he sleeps in Monday through Saturday malfunctions.