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Fantasy MVPs: Foster wins
The time has come to dole out the hardware for the 2010 fantasy season.
With an eye on keeping operations “lean and mean” in 2011, we’ll forego the big-budget award show, presenters, rented tuxes and pageantry. I’ll merely raise my 64-ounce coffee cup and salute those players who carried fantasy owners to championship runs. When I see these players during my travels this year, I’ll offer them a small trophy or medal. Perhaps they’ll openly mock me, and those results will be caught on tape for your amusement.
Regardless, it’s time to toast the best of 2010 in my world view. It’s a combination of straight stats with nods to consistency, the fantasy playoffs and myriad factors. I certainly welcome your thoughts on the matter.
Let’s begin this session with the biggest award first. I believe that my choice for MVP just might be indisputable.
2010 Fantasy MVP
Arian Foster, RB, Houston
Foster started the season with a ridiculous 231-yard, three-touchdown effort that seemingly ushered in a new era in Houston Texans football. Now, that ultimately wasn’t the case, but Foster was just getting warmed up. He would go on to lead the NFL in rushing with 1,616 yards while adding 604 receiving yards. Foster scored a total of 18 touchdowns this season (16 rushing), including three in the finale, a thrilling win over Jacksonville. Foster finished 13 games with at least 97 total yards.
Those numbers exceeded the expectations set for our consensus top picks of Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson. What adjective would you use to describe the accomplishments of a 10th-round draft pick (perhaps the third or fourth-round as the preseason drew to a close)?
Quarterback: Tom Brady, New England
What else needs to be said? Brady passed for 3,900 yards with 36 touchdowns and just five turnovers (four interceptions). He was not shut out in a single game and dominated despite the lack of a true No. 1 receiver.
Brady had thrown 12 touchdowns in the Patriots’ first seven games, but a four-game streak of one-touchdown performances raised questions about his ceiling and sparked countless discussions about his hair. He waved the criticism away and started to pile up ridiculous numbers in Week 9 against Cleveland. Brady threw 24 touchdown passes while averaging 255.3 passing yards in the final nine games of the season. His last turnover occurred in Week 6.
Brady also wins the “Samson” award over Clay Matthews and Troy Polamalu. He got better as his hair got longer.
Running back: Jamaal Charles, Kansas City
Charles narrowly missed out on breaking Jim Brown’s rushing average mark (by a paltry .02 yards per carry), so he’ll have to make do with a playoff appearance and a nod here. Despite the workload split and, at times, a limited touch count, Charles still amassed 1,935 total yards with eight total touchdowns (1,467 rushing yards and 468 receiving yards on 45 receptions). He finished 14 of 16 games with at least 76 total yards.
Running back: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, New England
Everyone’s favorite “Law Firm” posted a fantastic season as this year’s “Who will Bill Belichick choose to run?” turned fantasy superhero. Green-Ellis reached the vaunted 1,000-yard mark in Week 17 and finished the year with 13 rushing yards. He accomplished the feat despite averaging just 14.3 carries per game. In fact, Green-Ellis rushed for at least 87 yards or scored in 13 of the Patriots’ final 14 games.
Wide receiver: Brandon Lloyd, Denver
With the exception of a two-week downturn toward the end of the fantasy regular season, Lloyd was THE bright spot (pre-Tebow) in an otherwise lost season in Denver. Lloyd led the NFL with 1,448 receiving yards on 77 receptions with 11 touchdowns. He logged five 100-yard games this season and earned at least 73 yards on 12 occasions. Lloyd led all receivers with 18 receptions of at least 25 yards.
Wide receiver: Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh
Wallace told me emphatically during a training camp visit to Latrobe. “You better pick me early.” He wasn’t kidding. The second-year receiver from Mississippi ranked second to Lloyd with 17 receptions of at least 25 yards and fifth in receiving yardage at 1,257 receiving yards (21 yards per reception). Wallace posted seven 100-yard games this season, including six such efforts in the final nine games of the year. He also scored 10 touchdowns.
Wide receiver: Roddy White, Atlanta
White led the NFL with 115 receptions this season (7.2 per game). He logged five 100-yard performances (201 against the Bengals in Week 9) and 10 games with at least 74 receiving yards (43 or more in every game this season). White scored a total of 10 touchdowns this season, his second straight season with a double-digit touchdown total, including a score in each of the Falcons’ final three games.
Flex (RB/WR): Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland
McFadden gets a nod here despite missing three games and essentially getting shut out by the Steelers and Dolphins in Weeks 11 and 12. He recorded a ridiculous 1,664 total yards in 13 appearances with 10 total touchdowns. McFadden rushed for at least 89 yards in nine games and earned at least 114 total yards in 10 of his 13 games (150 or more in five of them).
How high will you push him up your draft board for 2011?
Tight end: Jason Witten, Dallas
Witten caught 15 passes in the Cowboys’ first three games of the year, but owners started to resign themselves to a high-reception, low-touchdown season from the eighth-year pro. He then netted 82 receiving yards in a score against the Titans in Week 5, and the race was on to new career marks. Witten also came up huge in the stretch run by scoring in the Cowboys’ final five games. He scored a career-high nine touchdowns this season, tied his 2009 mark of 94 receptions and topped 1,000 yards for the third time in the past four years.
Kicker: Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland
I’ve used the term “Super Jock” to describe Janikowski in the past, and for those unfamiliar with the 1970s toy, here’s the quick hit. Slam the head of a burly kicker and boot a plastic football through the uprights. Janikowski converted 33 field goals in 2010, including four makes from at least 50 yards (12 from 40-plus). He also benefitted from the brilliance of the running game and the heroics of Jacoby Ford to slam home 43 extra points (the second-highest total of his career).
D/ST: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers ranked first in total defense at 14.5 points allowed per game and topped the NFL in run defense (62.8 yards per game). Pittsburgh led the league with 48 sacks and logged 41 turnovers, including three returned for touchdowns.
Quarterback: Michael Vick, Philadelphia
Vick set the fantasy world on fire and created more than a few debates during Philadelphia’s rise in the NFC East. He rushed for 676 yards and nine touchdowns to supplement and impressive total of 3,018 passing yards with 21 passing touchdowns. Vick absorbed 34 sacks and committed nine turnovers.
Think about that. Vick averaged 274 passing yards, 61.5 rushing yards and 2.7 total touchdowns per game in the 11 games he finished. How high will you rank him for 2011?
Running back: Peyton Hillis, Cleveland
Hillis ran roughshod through the first three-quarters of the NFL season. He amassed 1,319 total yards and 13 touchdowns (11 rushing) through the Browns’ first 11 games, but was slowed markedly down the stretch. Hillis was held out of the end zone in the Browns’ final five games and averaged just 67 total yards (40 in Week 16). This late-season slowdown keeps him from ascending to the first-team, but Hillis’ contribution to the fantasy world in 2010 cannot be denied.
Running back: Chris Johnson, Tennessee
Johnson didn’t match the lofty expectations heaped upon him this off-season nor his own, but he still produced a fantastic season overall. He amassed 1,609 total yards (1,364 rushing) with 12 touchdowns (11 rushing). Johnson logged eight 100-yard games this season and scored in three of the Titans’ final four games. He didn’t obliterate records or light up the scoreboard as frequently as you may have hoped, but Johnson still rated among the league’s top performers.
Wide receiver: Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City
I debated where to slot Bowe during this award ceremony. Should he have appeared on the first-team after scoring a league-high 15 touchdowns? I ultimately moved him to the second team because of his slow start and slow finish to the season. Bowe posted one of the most dominant seven-game runs in memory, but look at the other nine games (four to start 2010 and five to finish it). In those nine games, Bowe registered 429 receiving yards and two touchdowns. In his other seven games, Bowe amassed 49 receptions for 733 yards and 13 touchdowns. That run might have been enough to get you into the fantasy playoffs, and you just might have gotten him on the wire following a slow start.
Wide receiver: Mike Williams, Tampa Bay
The Tampa Bay offense was a huge question mark coming into the season, and Williams’ selection by the Buccaneers was dismissed as a “reach” (to be kind) by many pundits. Instead, Williams established himself as the go-to receiver for Josh Freeman in the upstart Tampa Bay offense. Williams caught a total of 65 passes for 964 yards (60.2 yards per game) with 11 receiving touchdowns to lead all rookies. In fact, Williams tied for fourth in the NFL in touchdown receptions behind Bowe, Jennings and Calvin Johnson.
Wide receiver: Greg Jennings, Green Bay
If you played your league’s championship in Week 17, then you may disagree with Jennings’ inclusion here. He was tackled inside the 2-yard line twice in the narrow win over the Bears that propelled Green Bay into the playoffs. Still, Jennings recorded nine games with at least 80 receiving yards (1,265 overall) and scored 12 touchdowns, a phenomenal rebound from his four-touchdown total of 2009.
Flex (RB/WR): Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Pittsburgh
Mendenhall established new career-high marks in rushing yardage and touchdowns during the 2010 season. He wasn’t dominant on a weekly basis, as he logged only three 100-yard games, but he was consistent. Mendenhall scored 13 touchdowns in 2010 to tie him for second with BenJarvus Green-Ellis behind Arian Foster, and his 1,273 rushing yards ranked seventh in the NFL.
Tight end: Antonio Gates, San Diego
Gates’ inclusion may be somewhat surprising, but his impact on the first half of the season was immense. He scored in eight of the 10 games in which he appeared (10 total) while averaging five receptions and 78.2 receiving yards. Despite missing six games in their entirety and parts of others, Gates still tied Marcedes Lewis for the most touchdowns among tight ends.
Kicker: Matt Bryant, Atlanta
Bryant was the beneficiary of a steady defensive effort and brilliance of the Matt Ryan-led offense. He converted multiple field goals in 10 games this season and was shut out in that column only twice all season (eight conversions of at least 40 yards). Bryant also converted 44 extra points, including 14 games with multiple extra points.
D/ST: New England Patriots
The Patriots came into the season with many questions about the youthful defense. New England finished the year ranking eighth in total defense at 19.6 points allowed per game while generating 36 sacks and 36 turnovers, including five defensive touchdowns. Brandon Tate, Julian Edelman and countless heroes stepped forward to match the efforts of the high-octane New England offense.
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