|Robert Griffin III||355||2|
THE HUDDLE AWARDS – 2014
The season is over and it is time to recognize those players that delivered us to fantasy championships and those who just got in the way.
Best Player – Andrew Luck / Indianapolis Colts
Aaron Rodgers may be in the conversation but for fantasy teams Andrew Luck proved to be the most consistent, highest scoring quarterback for this season. He pulled up on the reins in the final weeks but so did every other elite quarterback at least once. The important part is that Luck delivered many fantasy teams to their playoffs with 10 games that contained 300+ pass yards over the first 12 weeks. He scored in every game and only once failed to have multiple touchdowns in that time. He was drafted at the end of the third round in the Average Draft but was taken as late as the fifth round in many leagues. Luck is a lock to be the first quarterback taken in 2015 fantasy drafts.
Best Draft Pick – Russell Wilson / Seattle Seahawks
While Luck proved a huge value, Wilson was the most draft pick because he was taken in the eighth round in the Average Draft and even later in many leagues. That means fantasy owners spent a pick that was picking up his main starters and yet landed a quarterback who would end up as high as third best in some league scoring. He never had a truly bad game and two of his best three games came in weeks 14 and 16. Wilson ran for 849 yards and six touchdowns to ensure that every week delivered even when the passing numbers were down. Any top five player drafted in the eighth round not only was a difference maker but allowed for better starters to be taken before him.
Best Rookie – Derek Carr / Oakland Raiders
Just because the NFL throws rookie quarterbacks into the fray immediately doesn’t mean they are going to be fantasy relevant. Derek Carr was the best of the seven rookies who would start at least one game though Blake Bortles (Jaguars) and Teddy Bridgewater (Vikings) were right behind. Carr ended with 3270 yards and 21 touchdowns which left him around 20th best in most leagues. All three showed promise and will be worth tracking next summer to determine if the team around them has been upgraded.
Worst Draft Pick – Matt Stafford / Detroit Lions
Stafford was not terrible but he did not lived up to his third round Average Draft pick as the fourth or fifth quarterback drafted – often right before Andrew Luck. But he ends up rated around 13th best in most leagues which means a valuable third round pick meant to gain a difference maker instead bought a player who was more of a liability. Half of his games would end with either one (4) or zero (4) passing touchdowns. The down year for Calvin Johnson meant a down year for Stafford.
Best Free Agent – Joe Flacco / Baltimore Ravens
Though he only ended up as the 14th best fantasy quarterback, Joe Flacco started the year on most waiver wires and yet likely finished the year on none. As usual most drafts raid the shelves of good quarterbacks so free agents rarely matter. But Flacco stepped in to become a great back-up for a fantasy team and threw for two or more scores in half of his games.
Best Player – Le’Veon Bell / Pittsburgh Steelers
He’s the highest scoring running back and better yet he went from being a top ten player to owning the top spot over the final five weeks of the fantasy season after LeGarrette Blount was sent back to the Patriots. Bell became a monster immediately with eight touchdowns between weeks 11 and 16 along with big yardage in every game. He averaged 180 total yards per game in those critical five weeks. While there’s plenty of time for things to change between now and next September, Bell is the current favorite to be the consensus #1 overall draft pick next summer.
Best Draft Pick – DeMarco Murray / Dallas Cowboys
DeMarco Murray was usually selected in the middle of the second round in most leagues and as late as the third in some. That was a risky pick given his injury history and one that paid off more than anyone expected. Murray did not get hurt. He broke Emmitt Smith’s single season rushing record instead while serving up well over 100 total yards in every game and scoring 13 touchdowns. He rushed 393 times for 1845 yards and caught 57 passes for 416 yards. That was 17th most rush yards and seventh most carries in NFL history. From a running back who had never lasted a full season going back through college. No matter if it was just a magic year, drafters reaped the rewards every week.
Best Rookie – Jeremy Hill / Cincinnati Bengals
The 2.23 pick of the draft was the second back taken but he easily outpaced all other NFL freshman. Jeremy Hill started the year as a complement to Giovani Bernard but ended up as the primary back who turned in four games with over 140 rushing yards since midseason. Hill finishes with 222 carries for 1124 yards and nine touchdowns along with 31 catches for 215 yards. The 238 lb./6-1 power back took over games when given 20 or more carries.
Worst Draft Pick – Montee Ball / Denver Broncos
There were plenty of running back flops this year with about half of the first two rounds failing to deliver anything close to expectations. Adrian Peterson certainly lives here but at least his owners knew to not touch him and withhold hopes that he would return to do anything. Not so with Montee Ball who would last only three games as the starter and suffer through matchups against the Chiefs, Seahawks and Cardinals before being lost in week five. He was destined to return so owners held on and then in week 11 reinjured himself before touching the ball and was lost for the year. It was bad enough to squander a first or early second round pick. It was bad enough to hold out hope that he would return for no reason. But the killer part was watching Ronnie Hillman, Juwan Thompson or C.J. Anderson blow up when they were given a turn. Anderson’s played so well that Ball’s career might end up far shorter than expected.
Best Free Agent – Justin Forsett / Baltimore Ravens
Down the stretch, C.J. Anderson has been the highest scoring free agent but over the season, Justin Forsett takes the prize. The Ray Rice saga played out right when the season was starting and he was suspended by the NFL on September 8th and released by the Ravens. Bernard Pierce was his back-up while Forsett was just a journeyman third-down back playing on his fourth NFL team in seven years. But the 29-year old took advantage of his opportunity and combined his rushing and receiving skills to become the primary back for the Ravens who would end with 1266 rushing yards and 44 receptions for 263 yards. He scored eight times and became a top ten running back scraped off the waiver wire in week one.
Best Player – Antonio Brown / Pittsburgh Steelers
Ends up the Steelers would be okay without Emmanuel Sanders. They would just throw everything to Antonio Brown. His 129 receptions ranks second only to Marvin Harrison (143) in NFL history. His 1698 yards ranked sixth best and he scored 13 touchdowns for one of the greatest fantasy wideout performances of all time. He turned in 90+ yards in thirteen games and maintained a very productive pace in every single game without fail. He’ll be the first receiver drafted in most leagues next summer.
Best Draft Pick – Emmanuel Sanders / Denver Broncos
Despite usually being drafted in the sixth round in most leagues, Sanders changed teams to replace Eric Decker. He jumped from a career best 67 catches for 740 yards and six scores to 101 receptions for 1404 yards and nine touchdowns. The player drafted to be a second or third wideout for a fantasy team ended up in the top ten as an every week advantage. Ends up playing with Peyton Manning is a very good career move.
Best Rookie – Odell Beckham / New York Giants
It may become legendary what Odell Beckham accomplished after missing the first four weeks with a hamstring strain. He was an 18th round pick in the Average Draft and rode the waiver wire in many if not most leagues. He was impressive in his first three games when he averaged about three catches for 35 yards and one score. Victor Cruz was lost for the year in week six and all hell broke loose. Beckham ended the year with 91 catches for 1305 yards and 12 touchdowns. Considering just the last eight games that he played with Victor Cruz gone, Beckham had a pace that would have resulted in 162 catches for 2398 yards and 18 touchdowns over a 16 game season. As unattainable as that looks, consider he gained over 130 yards in five of his final six games. The return of Cruz will change the dynamics but there is no denying that Beckham has played as well as any rookie wideout ever has.
Worst Draft Pick – Calvin Johnson / Detroit Lions
There were several wide receivers who were lost for the season like Brandon Marshall or Victor Cruz and they certainly hurt their owners. But Johnson was the consensus #1 wideout drafted last year and in reception point leagues went as high as fourth overall. He ended up around 18th best in those leagues. Worse yet he never scored between the season opener and week ten while missing all or part of six games. Megatron went cold and took the Lions passing game with him. While he turned in nice performances from week ten onward, he still turned in three games with fewer than 55 yards and no scores.
Best Free Agent – Brandon LaFell / New England Patriots
With so many wide receivers taken in most leagues, it is a challenge to find a waiver wire player worthy of being a starter. Brandon LaFell was the best of the many wideouts who would be picked up and used at least for a stretch. LaFell would end the year with 74 receptions for 953 yards and seven touchdowns. LaFell did not record a catch in the first two weeks but would end with four games where he gained 90+ yards. He cooled the final month of the season while Rob Gronkowski was playing better but LaFell still ranked as a lower-end WR2 for a fantasy team.
Best Player – Rob Gronkowski / New England Patriots
Hats off to the gamblers who spent a third round pick hoping that the Gronk of old would emerge instead of the lesser version of recent past. Throughout the season, Rob Gronkowski has been playing more snaps and being more involved in the offense. Though he was held out of the season finale, Gronk still ends as the top scoring tight end with 82 receptions for 1124 yards and 12 touchdowns. He scored in ten different games and topped 90 yards six times. Until week five he was still not producing worthy of his draft spot but that all changed. With injuries to Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas, Gronkowski ends the year as the only consistent elite tight end.
Best Draft Pick – Antonio Gates / San Diego Chargers
It would be remarkable enough that Gates went from being a 12th round pick to being the fourth best tight end in most leagues. But he usually ended up being drafted a full round after Ladarius Green from his own Chargers. Though The Huddle never suggested it, the consensus was that Green would overtake the aging Gates. Instead, Gates ended with 69 receptions for 821 yards and 12 touchdowns. He surpassed Lance Alworth to become the Chargers all time leader in career receiving yards. He’s 34 years old and cannot play forever but any step down the depth chart was greatly mistakened for 2014.
Best Rookie – Jace Amaro / New York Jets
This is like being the tallest midget. There was no rookie tight end with any fantasy relevance and there almost never is. Amaro led the field with 35 catches for 311 yards and two scores. The position doesn’t produce new players of note until the second year if even then.
Worst Draft Pick – Julius Thomas / Denver Broncos
He would be taken late second round or early third round in most leagues. But Julius Thomas went from being the second tight end drafted to turning in around tenth best production. In this position, that means going from being a difference maker to wasting a pick on a player who produces like a 12th rounder or later. Worse yet, Thomas has replicated his 2013 season by starting out red hot and then cooling significantly by around midseason or so. Thomas scored nine times in the first six weeks of 2014 but then only three more over the final twelve weeks. He missed three games injured and turned in six games with no touchdowns and fewer than 35 yards from week seven onward. The repeated decline each year will affect his draft stock next summer.
Best Free Agent – Travis Kelce / Kansas City Chiefs
Only the deepest of leagues saw Travis Kelce drafted and most left him on the waiver wire. But he would be taken after week two when he caught four passes for 81 yards on the Broncos. He would go on to score five touchdowns this season and end with 67 catches for 852 yards. That’s good enough to end up top five for the position and yet another reason why drafting a tight end early only matters for the elite two or three players each year.
DRAMA 101 – SOMEBODY HAS TO LAUGH, SOMEBODY HAS TO CRY
|QB||Geno Smith||376||3||QB||Peyton Manning||268||0|
|RB||Jordan Toddman||98||1||RB||Jamaal Charles||62||0|
|RB||Alfred Blue||76||1||RB||Arian Foster||33||1|
|WR||Eric Decker||221||1||WR||Mike Wallace||nope||0|
|WR||Michael Floyd||153||2||WR||Kelvin Benjamin||9||0|
|WR||Adam Thielen||68||1||WR||Alshon Jeffery||34||0|
|TE||Virgil Green||46||1||TE||Julius Thomas||nope||0|
|PK||Connor Barth||17 pts||PK||Matt Prater||2 pts|
|Huddle Fantasy Points = 156||Huddle Fantasy Points = 30|
Sunday’s Couch Commentary
And so it goes.
2014 season is in the books and the playoffs are set:
4:35 PM EST – Arizona at Carolina
8:15 PM EST – Baltimore at Pittsburgh
1:05 PM EST – Cincinnati at Indianapolis
4:40 PM EST – Detroit at Dallas
New England, Denver, Seattle and Green Bay had first round byes.
The season winds down appropriately with Geno Smith as the best quarterback. The Cowboys seem to be having the Cinderella season and all that smack about the Patriots early in the year was premature. As I go through every game and every player performance, I know that we are seeing an increase in how many big games that players are having. There is not a lot of parity between players and defiantly not week-to-week. Here are the numbers of players who scored two or more touchdowns this year:
The NFL is producing plenty of studs though in many cases like tight ends, it is surprise players scoring two times in a game. I’m doing a number of studies over the offseason and this big game phenomena is one I want to explore and along with other measurements and situations that I want to take some time examining. If you want to know more about some subject, characteristic or stat let me know and I’ll certainly consider it.
After eighteen years of Tunnel Visions, this is my 306th by my count which means well over a million words written until the week hours of Sunday night and Monday morning for this column.
Play a playoff fantasy league if you can or a daily game for that matter. If you just want to watch the games without the need for mental calculations or swearing at the TV, then just enjoy them with no competition. I hope your team made it to the playoffs just like your fantasy team.
I appreciate those of you who enjoy the column and wish you and yours the Happiest of New Years!
Now get back to work…