DAN HANDS OUT FANTASY MVP AND LVP AWARDS IN THIS WEEK'S START HIM! SIT HIM!
Welcome to the fantasy football playoffs! Or if you spent your first two draft picks on Jamaal Charles and Peyton Manning, welcome to the fantasy football offseason!
Many teams were destined for the playoffs immediately after their fantasy draft took place, while others became contenders through trades and good fortune throughout the season. Some teams playoff chances were sunk as soon as their first round pick went down with a season ending injury, while others were made because their late-round handcuff transformed into a top-tier fantasy player.
With that in mind, I wanted to take a look back and hand out the fantasy MVPs and LVPs at every position this week. Yes, I realize the playoffs will have some say as to who actually is the most valuable at the end of the year, but football hands out its regular season MVP award with no regard for playoff performance, so I’m going to do the same.
Draft position will be the key component when determining how valuable someone was this season, as late-round picks who performed like second-round picks obviously had more value than fourth-rounders that performed like second-round picks. The only rule I’m making is that players who missed the majority of the season due to injury will not be considered. This means Peyton Manning and Jamaal Charles are off the hook, because injuries are a part of football. We know they are going to happen, we just don’t know to whom they are going to happen.
I was always told that you want to hear bad news first and then finish it off with the good news, so we’re going to start with fantasy’s Least Valuable Players in 2011.
(Note: I’m using ESPN.com’s average draft position for the list below.)
QB – Michael Vick * average draft position – 1st round, 7th overall, 2nd QB
Vick receives the QB fantasy LVP because of his lofty draft status and high expectations (One notable fantasy projectionist even had Vick atop his draft board). You can make a strong case that Philip Rivers has actually been less valuable than Vick because of his inconsistencies, but Vick was just comically over-drafted. I realize I said players who missed much of the season weren’t going to be considered for the award because you can’t predict injuries, but here’s what I wrote in mid-August about why I thought Vick was being over-drafted:
“Look, if you can guarantee me he’ll play the whole season he’s the No. 1 pick, and it’s really not that close. The problem is you can’t guarantee it, or even feel good predicting it. Honestly, would you be more surprised if he played 16 games this season, or eight? It’s just a gut feeling because he’s completely healthy right now, but I would rather go with the guys listed above who don’t torpedo their body at the first-down marker twice per quarter. I’m letting someone else spend a first-round pick on him, and I suggest you do the same.”
To date, Vick has played in nine games this season (only seven full games) and may not be the same guy you are used to seeing because of the rib injuries even if he does return for the fantasy playoffs. Due to his unjustly high pre-season ranking, predictable injuries and inconsistent season, Michael Vick is this season's LVP for fantasy QBs.
RB – Chris Johnson * average draft position – 1st round, 2nd overall, 2nd RB
Too little, too late, Chris!
For owners that drafted Johnson and were somehow able to make it into the fantasy playoffs despite their first pick being a complete bust for much of the season, maybe he will finish off strong enough that his pitiful start won’t be the lasting memory of your 2011 fantasy football season. But his astonishing total of six games with seven or fewer fantasy points is what cost many owners the opportunity to make it to the playoffs, and that, along with a mere two rushing TDs through the season’s first twelve weeks, is why he is this year’s fantasy football LVP at RB.
WR – DeSean Jackson * average draft position – 3rd round, 28th overall, 9th WR
Just some quick numbers here on Jackson to illustrate how bad he has been this season: 11 games, 2 TDs (none since Week 5) and only three games with more than eight fantasy points.
And here are some WRs that probably went undrafted in your league who have more points to date than Jackson’s 77: Jabar Gaffney, Antonio Brown, Nate Washington, Torrey Smith, Laurent Robinson, Eric Decker and Victor Cruz.
DeSean may not be deserving of a new contract in Philadelphia, but he is deserving of this year’s LVP among fantasy WRs.
TE – Dallas Clark * average draft position – 6th round, 63rd overall, 5th TE
Obviously it wasn’t all his fault, and his numbers wouldn’t have been nearly as bad if he had Peyton Manning throwing to him this season instead of the comical trio of Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter, and Dan Orlovsky, but the numbers are all that matter.
Clark has reeled in only two TD passes this season, and his 35 fantasy points on the season tie him with the immortal Delanie Walker of the San Francisco 49ers for 29th among fantasy Tight Ends.
Better days should be ahead for the talented pass-catcher, but in 2011 he is hands-down the LVP among fantasy TEs.
D/ST – Philadelphia Eagles * average draft position – 9th round, 95th overall, 5th D/ST
I’ve said before that stats rarely tell the full story in football, so you don’t always get the full story when you look at a box score of an NFL game.
Well, in the case of the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles, the stats really do tell the full story.
Despite the additions of Nnamdi Asomugha, Cullen Jenkins, Jason Babin and a host of talented playmakers on both sides of the ball, the Eagles have been the biggest disappointment in the NFL this season, and it isn’t even close.
Also, they appointed their offensive line coach in 2010 to be their defensive coordinator in 2011. No, seriously, they did. Have you heard that yet? They really did.
Believe it or not, that move hasn’t worked out, and Philly has allowed at least 29 points in eight of their twelve games this season. They have recorded five or fewer fantasy points in exactly half of their games on the year, and even have a -7 fantasy point performance in Week 12 on their resume.
It is without much hesitation that we can safely award fantasy’s D/ST LVP trophy to the NFL’s most disappointing team in 2011.
On a more positive note, it’s time to look at fantasy football’s 2011 MVPs:
QB – Cam Newton * average draft position – 11th round, 117th overall, 18th QB
I can remember the laughter in the room when Newton’s name was called towards the end of one of my drafts (something I’m nearly certain I took part in).
The chatter: “He’s a rookie!” “He has nobody to throw to!” “He can’t throw the ball!” “He’ll be a tight end in two years!”
Here is the entire list of players with more points than Newton's 275 this season, regardless of position:
1. Aaron Rodgers – 314 points
… And that’s the list. That’s it. One player.
My man-crush on Newton reached uncomfortable levels after only a few weeks of the regular season, and I’m genuinely concerned for my own well being where it may end up. He’s a talent like we have never seen before in the NFL, so do yourselves a favor and believe every bit of hype you hear between now and draft day in 2012. He’s that good.
Without any objection whatsoever, Cam is your 2011 fantasy football MVP among QBs, and is probably the #1 MVP regardless of position.
RB – Darren Sproles * average draft position – 11th round, 118th overall, 43rd RB
The diminutive Sproles figured to not only get lost on the field for the Saints, but also in their backfield rotation in 2011. The team spent a first round pick in April’s draft on former Heisman Trophy-winning RB Mark Ingram, and they already had Pierre Thomas slated for consistent carries.
The signing of Sproles was supposed to help out the return game on special teams, and hopefully provide the team with a pass catching back out of the backfield on third down, similar to how the team used Reggie Bush in previous seasons.
Well, all of that went out the window when Sproles proved to be a superior version of Bush and enters the fantasy playoffs as the #13 back in terms of points despite scoring just two rushing TDs and without recording a single 90-yard game on the ground.
Sproles four receiving TDs and one return TD have given him the consistent point totals that owners crave this season, making him the 2011 fantasy MVP among RBs.
WR – Victor Cruz * average draft position – Undrafted, Undrafted, Undrafted
It’s safe to say we all missed the boat here. And I don’t just mean fantasy footballers, I mean the Giants too.
They gave Mario Manningham every opportunity under the sun to prove that he could be the #2 receiver opposite Hakeem Nicks, but Cruz just kept out-producing him. Cruz out-produced not only Manningham, but also Nicks and now looks like he may be Eli Manning’s favorite target moving forward.
Cruz has six consecutive games with 84 or more yards receiving and has four TDs over that span. He is fantasy’s #3 receiver on the year, trailing only Calvin Johnson and Wes Welker, and due to his non-existent draft status, easily wins the award as this year’s fantasy football MVP among WRs.
TE – Rob Gronkowski * average draft position – 12th round, 125th overall, 13th TE
Gronkowski checks in with a healthy 25 point lead over Saints’ TE Jimmy Graham for position supremacy, and an astonishing 61 point lead over the #3 fantasy tight end, Tony Gonzalez.
It’s hard to characterize exactly how dominant Gronkowski has been this season, but he is about to shatter the all-time receiving TDs record among TEs, and may put it out of sight.
Gronk has scored multiple TDs in five of his twelve games this season, and has a total of thirteen scores on the season. He’s averaging over fourteen fantasy points per game this season, and looks poised to push his season point total over 200 (it sits at 171 now) by the end of the year.
Jimmy Graham has been spectacular for the Saints and fantasy owners this season, but there is no debating Gronkowski has been better; making him an easy choice for fantasy MVP among TEs in 2011.
D/ST – Texans/49ers * average draft position – Undrafted
Let this serve as a reminder to anyone who selects a defense before the final two rounds of their fantasy draft.
These defensive and special teams units were mostly off the fantasy radar on draft day, but currently rank second and third, respectively, in terms of fantasy points.
You don’t need a great defensive unit in fantasy in order to have a good one; all you need is an opportunistic one. Or in some cases, just a lucky one. However you choose to characterize the seemingly unpredictably good seasons for both of these teams, don’t forget they were afterthoughts on draft day in 2011.
Each is just as deserving of the award as the other, so I am left with no choice but to make them split the defensive/special teams MVP trophy for fantasy football in 2011.
Now before we get into Week 14 it’s time to look back at Week 13’s predictions and see how I did:
QB Vince Young – Projected * 271 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT (16 Points)
Actual * 208 yards passing, 32 yards rushing, 1 TD, 4 INT (7 Points)
Truly a pitiful effort by Young and the Eagles. He’s a very mediocre NFL talent, but I figured with all of those weapons against a banged-up Seahawks team, he would do well. He didn’t, and he should be relegated to the bench in fantasy and for Philadelphia from here on out.
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis – Projected * 68 yards, 1 TD (12 Points)
Actual * 14 yards, 1 TD (7 Points)
If you had told me “The Law Firm” was going to score, I would have figured there was no way I would have taken the L here. Unfortunately, his fourteen yards rushing only added one more point to his fantasy total and he finished tied for 28th among RBs in Week 13, so I have to take the loss here.
My bonus START HIM! RB C.J. Spiller had an impressive showing against Tennessee and put up 15 fantasy points, but I chose Green-Ellis, so I’ll accept the loss and move on without a complaint.
See? I’m not shady all the time…
WR Eric Decker – Projected * 46 yards, 1 TD (10 Points)
Actual * 25 yards, 0 TD (2 Points)
If you had told me the Broncos were going to put up 35 points and Eric Decker (who had scored a TD in four of his previous five games) wasn’t going to get in on the action, I would have said you are out of your mind.
Actually, I probably would have just chalked it up to “Tebow Magic” and assumed that he scored five rushing touchdowns on his own without throwing a single pass, but that’s besides the point. Tebow won and I lost. Those five words probably sum up my 2011 fantasy football season better than any other.
TE Jake Ballard – Projected * I just think he’ll score (6+ Points)
Actual * 47 yards, 0 TD (4 Points)
Thirteen more yards, Jake. Thirteen more yards.
Broncos’ Defense – Projected * 17 points allowed, 4 sacks, 2 turnovers (10 Points)
Actual * 32 points allowed, 3 sacks, 3 turnovers, 1 TD (10 Points)
Losing Defensive Rookie of the Year favorite Von Miller hurt Denver more than most had expected, but the saving grace here really was the interception returned for a TD. Usually, allowing 32 points on defense isn’t good enough in fantasy, but scoring a defensive TD almost always hides your other deficiencies.
Plus, Tebow Magic!
QB Matt Ryan – Projected * 256 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT (10 Points)
Actual * 267 yards passing, 10 yards rushing, 1 TD, 2 INT (11 Points)
Had Julio Jones hauled in a TD on the final play of the game after Ryan hit him in the hands with a perfectly thrown ball in the end zone, I might be singing a different tune at this point. However, the rest of the stats match up just about perfectly with my projection, and Ryan finished T-20th among fantasy QBs last weekend.
RB Roy Helu – Projected * 53 yards, 0 TD (5 Points)
Actual * 142 total yards, 1 TD, 1 fumble (18 Points)
My least favorite part of projecting stats for players is obviously playing Tight End Roulette. My second least favorite part is, unquestionably, guessing what Mike Shannahan is going to do. I don’t have the official numbers, but I think I’m approximately 0-46 when projecting what a Redskins’ player is going to do. I think I’m officially retiring from Redskins fantasy prognosticating for health reasons.
WR DeSean Jackson – Projected * 46 yards, 0 TD (4 Points)
Actual * 34 yards, 0 TD (3 Points)
What else is left to say about Jackson this season? Did you see the highlights of him jogging in the middle of plays and shying away from blocks that would help his team? The contract situation has gotten to him about as much as it has to any player in recent memory. He’s simply too risky to put in your lineup the rest of the season, and he may even lose his starting job before long.
TE Dallas Clark – Projected * I just don’t think he’ll score (Sub-6 Points)
Actual * 0 yards, 0 TD (0 Points)
No, Clark didn’t actually pull a Chad Ochocinco last weekend, he was ruled inactive just before the game. His replacement, Jacob Tamme, was limited to 49 yards and zero TDs in the game, so while I wish Clark had played to give me an official result here, I’ll just have to substitute Tamme’s stats in and take the dubya.
Now, if Tamme had scored, you do realize I would have acted like it never happened and just taken Clark’s oh-fer, right? Good, just making sure we’re on the same page.
Raiders’ Defense – Projected * 27 points allowed, 2 sacks, 1 turnover (5 Points)
Actual * 34 points allowed, 1 sack, 0 turnovers (-1 Points)
Matt Moore, ladies and gentlemen!
Miami steamrolled an inept Oakland rush defense on their way to 209 yards on the ground and two TDs without committing a turnover. The Raiders’ defense is one to target as we enter the fantasy playoffs, as they simply cannot stop the run.
Oh, and their middle linebacker may be going to jail for a while for holding a gun to another man’s head and firing a shot next to his ear, so their defense probably won’t magically get better overnight.
I couldn’t find anything close enough to sheepishly round up to a win this week, so it looks like I’ll have to take my medicine at 5-5. If 6-4 is fantasy football mediocrity, then we can label 5-5 as fantasy football commonplace. If nothing else, my average performance in projecting fantasy stats has given me plenty of reasons to sort through synonyms for “mediocre” this season.
On to Week 14!
QB Dan Orlovsky – Projected * 269 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT (16 Points)
Just kidding! Orlovsky and the Colts go on the road this week to face the Baltimore Ravens. I don’t know who the NFL schedule makers are, but I’m going to go ahead and assume they anticipated Peyton Manning would be playing this season, because no one should have to go through the schedule the Colts have with their QBs. I put Orlovsky’s name up there just to see if you were paying attention, but seriously, if he makes it out of Baltimore with a pulse he will be the big winner from Week 14.
But I will project those stats above for Alex Smith this week. He has a tasty matchup against the Cardinals on the road, and I think that since San Fran has already wrapped up the division, they are going to lighten the load on Frank Gore, which means they could be throwing a little more down on the goal line.
QB Matt Hasselbeck – Projected * 222 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT (10 Points)
This is another terrific week for QBs, so if you are hunting for a waiver wire guy, don’t get caught up in the big numbers projected for Hasselbeck against the Saints this week on ESPN.com.
Hasselbeck hasn’t thrown for more than 160 yards in any of his last three games and has just one TD compared to four turnovers. I’m still guessing he will manage to throw two TDs this week, and although they may come in garbage time, they still count.
But Tennessee has gone back to Chris Johnson, and I would expect them to do more of the same this week against the Saints. Leave Hasselbeck for someone else on the waiver wire, or keep him on your bench, but there are better options this week. Namely, Dan Orlovsky.
Kidding! Alex Smith is your guy.
RB Marion Barber – Projected * 61 yards, 1 TD (12 Points)
With Forte slated to miss some time, Barber’s carries should increase exponentially. He already saw a fair amount of goal line work before the injury, but now that he has an expanded role, you have to figure he’s going to be worthy of flex-play consideration, at least.
He probably won’t break many long runs, so his value is capped by whether or not you think he will score. I think he will, so I’m starting him this week.
RB Beanie Wells – Projected * 43 yards, 0 TD (4 Points)
The Cardinals take on the always-tough run defense of the 49ers this weekend in the desert, and Wells has a tough matchup ahead of him. He’s been playing extremely well of late and has rushed for an astonishing 295 yards in his last two games, while scoring twice.
So why am I sitting him this week? Obviously he has a tough matchup, but still, he’s playing great and should be able to offset the 49ers to some degree, right?
Well, take a guess how many rushing TDs the 49ers have allowed to opposing running backs this season? Go ahead, seriously, take an actual guess.
Nope, you’re too high. It’s even lower than that.
How do I know? Because unless you guessed zero, you were too high.
That’s as incredible of a stat as you will find this season. I encourage you to sit anyone against this defense anyway, but a slightly hobbled Beanie Wells probably isn’t going to do anything.
WR Malcom Floyd – Projected * 111 yards, 1 TD (17 Points)
In the last four games he has played, Floyd has topped 100 yards in three of them and scored in two of them. The one game he didn’t top 100 yards, he was held to 36 by the Jets, which barely counts against him.
Now that he’s healthy, he has rounded into an every week starter in fantasy, and he belongs in your lineups this week against an “avert your children’s eyes” bad Bills’ secondary.
WR Johnny Knox – Projected * 47 yards, 0 TD (4 Points)
How bad is Caleb Hanie? Well, word in the NFL this week was they were considering replacing him with Donovan McNabb or Brett Favre.
Not terrible news, if this was 2004.
Alas, it is 2011 and Caleb Hanie is Johnny Knox’s only source of footballs this week against Denver. Sit him, and don’t give it another moment’s thought.
TE - Ed Dickson – Projected * I just think he’ll score (6+ Points)
Did you know that a marine catfish can taste with any part of its body?
TE – Brent Celek – Projected * I just don’t think he’ll score (Sub-6 Points)
Did you know that the placement of a donkey’s eyes allow it to see all four feet at all times?
Seahawks Defense – Projected 16 points allowed, 3 sacks, 3 turnovers (10 Points)
Opposing defenses haven’t registered less that six points all season when going against Sam Bradford and the St. Louis Rams. If you are looking for a cheap source of points with a pretty high ceiling this week, you could do a lot worse than Seattle. At the very least, you know the Rams aren’t going to torch them, and they could be fantasy’s top scoring defense on the week.
Eagles Defense – Projected * 27 points allowed, 2 sacks, 1 turnover (4 Points)
Apparently Philadelphia’s defense is being started in well over half of fantasy leagues at this point, and I just want to have a quick intervention with some of those people if I may.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING!? DO YOU HATE WINNING!? STOP IT! STOP IT NOW! THEY AREN’T GOOD! THEIR DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR WAS THEIR OFFENSIVE LINE COACH AT THIS TIME LAST YEAR! STOP IT!
OK, I think we’re good now. I just had to get that out.
But seriously, this week the traveling disappointment known as the Philadelphia Eagles head to Miami to take on the rejuvenated Dolphins and their suddenly dominant ground-attack. Philadelphia hasn’t stopped the run all season long, and this week won’t be any different. Sit the Eagles’ defense this week, and don’t look back.
Seriously, if they aren’t being sat in more leagues than they are started in by kickoff on Sunday I’m going to be upset. Don’t sit them for you, sit them for me and my own sanity.
Good luck to everyone this week, and that goes double for anyone who snuck into the playoffs because of a solid win-loss record, but is running on fumes after late-season injuries. You know who you are.
START HIM! SIT HIM! Season Record: 72-58
Follow me @Dan_LaLonde where I wonder aloud how Skip Bayless is part of the 91% that is employed in this country, rather than the 9% that is not.modafinil