The 2016 fantasy football season is over! Who are the award winners?
Another fantasy season has passed, and young stars continued to grow while legends continued to age. To sum up this season, let’s recognize the players that brought us excitement every Sunday.
Most Valuable Player: David Johnson
In 16 games, David Johnson accrued 2,118 total yards and 20 total TDs, in addition to 80 receptions for PPR leagues. Not only was the Cardinal’s running back the top scoring RB/WR/TE in standard leagues, Johnson was remarkably consistent, failing to reach 100 total yards just once (injured in Week 17). Despite having an ADP at the fifth pick, there were concerns with his usage prior to the season, with Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington also in the mix for the backfield. However, with the first 20 TD season since LeSean McCoy’s 2011 season, he dismissed any doubts of his three-down ability and versatility, and affirmed himself as a solid first-round fantasy pick.
Despite being just seventh in rushing yards (1,239) with a less-than-stellar 4.2 yards per carry, David Johnson is able to post his incredible production due to his receiving ability, leading all running backs in receptions and targets (120). In Week 17 however, he suffered a gruesome-looking injury to his knee, but according to the team, it was only a sprained MCL. Johnson will not attend his first Pro Bowl as a result, but he’ll be ready for next season to carry more fantasy teams to the championship game.
Comeback Player of the Year: Jordy Nelson
Jordy Nelson missed the 2015 season due to a torn ACL sustained in the preseason. He came back in 2016 and led the league in receiving TDs (14), was fifth in receptions (97), and sixth in receiving yards (1257). He rewarded faithful owners, who on average drafted him with the 18th pick, as he was second among wide receivers in fantasy points.
Nelson was also arguably the most valuable receiver this year, even when compared to the likes of Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr., Julio Jones, Mike Evans, A.J. Green, and T.Y. Hilton. Despite not being first in any ESPN category, Nelson had the best consistency out of the elite receivers above, having the lowest standard deviation of fantasy points throughout the 17 weeks. His role in the Green Bay Packers offense as Aaron Rodgers’ top target will make him a top pick for the 2017 season.
Rookie of the Year: Ezekiel Elliott
There’s no doubt that Ezekiel Elliott is the frontrunner for NFL’s Rookie of the Year award, and there’s no doubt that he had the best fantasy season among rookies, too. In his 15 starts, he had a league-leading 1,631 yards on an outstanding 5.1 yards per carry, while having 1,994 total yards and 16 total TDs. Fantasy owners drafted him high, an ADP at the seventh pick, which is considerably risky for a rookie runner, but Elliott ran well all year and ended up second in fantasy points among running backs (behind David Johnson, of course).
His consistency was remarkable as well, as he reached 80 total yards in 14 of his 15 games — the lone exception being his NFL debut against the stout Giants defense. Of course, he benefited from having arguably the best offensive line in the league as well, but it doesn’t really matter to fantasy owners. Heading into 2017, Elliott will surely be among in the top echelon of fantasy rushers, and gone in the first round.
Bust of the Year: Adrian Peterson
At the age of 31, Adrian Peterson might have played his last game as a Minnesota Viking, after having torn his meniscus in 2016. Peterson was drafted sixth on average with owners hoping he could recapture an outstanding 2015 season where he led the league in rushing yards. Instead, he had just 72 rushing yards on 37 carries (1.95 ypc) in three games, without a single touchdown.
Going into 2017, Adrian Peterson’s draft stock is highly unknown. According to IBT Sports, Vikings can choose to cut Peterson and forgo his $18 million cap hit, but only if he passes his physical. However, even if he remains on the Vikings roster, his past few seasons have been mired with tears and dislocations, which may persuade the Vikings to use Jerick McKinnon or Matt Asiata more. Moreover, the Vikings offensive line has been somewhat a mess, making the backfield all the more unreliable. Only time will tell what will happen to this former MVP.
Quarterback of the Year: Matt Ryan
Matt Ryan’s year kind of skated by unnoticed by some and underrated by many, but he is my frontrunner for the NFL MVP award. This year, he was second in yards (4,944), third in COM% (69.9), first in yards per attempt (an incredible 9.26, good for sixth all time), second in TDs (38), and first in passer rating (an incredible 117.7, good for fifth all-time). He also leads in TD% (7.1) and yards per completion (13.3). He arguably had a top ten season for a passer ever, and no one is really talking about it. As a result, the Falcons’ offense led the league in scoring (540, tied with “The Greatest Show on Turf”), was second in yards per game (415.8), and led the league in DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) at +25.3%.
In fantasy, Ryan likewise had an incredible year, placing second in fantasy points behind Aaron Rodgers. However, he did this with considerable consistency, with just one game below 15 points. Unlike the other top-scoring passers like Rodgers and Brees, Ryan was drafted on average with the 140th pick, as the 19th quarterback! His strong performance week after week makes him the top fantasy quarterback of 2016.
Kicker of the Year: Matt Bryant
You can’t spell Matt Bryant without Matt Ryan… and they both play for the Falcons. Matt Bryant may be 41 years old, but he finished the season as the top scoring fantasy kicker. This honor was a decision between him and Justin Tucker of the Ravens, and while Tucker had pretty much a perfect kicking season (one kick blocked, not really his fault), Bryant was a more consistent fantasy scorer. Bryant’s fantasy production had a standard deviation of just 3.50 while Tucker’s was higher at 4.38. To look at it from another perspective, Bryant had ten games of double digit points to Tucker’s nine, and Bryant had one game below five points to Tucker’s two. I’m splitting hairs, but Bryant’s consistency made him the slightly better fantasy kicker in 2016. Oh Bryant was drafted as the 24th kicker as opposed to Tucker being the fourth kicker off the boards.
Defense of the Year: Denver D/ST
The top fantasy defense of 2015 is also my pick for the top fantasy defense of 2016. The Denver defense lost a couple of key players in the offseason in defensive lineman Malik Jackson, and inside linebacker Danny Trevathan, but they were still an elite corps led by the best secondary in the league as well as an outstanding pass rush unit.
In fantasy points, the group finished the year second in ESPN (after Minnesota), third in both NFL.com, and Yahoo (after Kansas City and Minnesota). These three defenses and the Arizona defense are pretty much the consensus top four across every scoring format. However, Denver displayed the best consistency using standard deviation among these teams, followed by Arizona, Kansas City, and then Minnesota. Pretty much the entire year, Denver was a plug-and-play option, and fantasy owners had one less decision to make.
In this article, all the draft position data is taken from FantasyPros. The standard deviation calculations is done by taking each player’s fantasy points (16 numbers) and just using Excel. This has truly been a great year of fantasy football; after all, I finally won my first fantasy league after many, many, heartbreaking losses in the final game. I enjoyed every moment of this season, except the two games where my Colts lost to Brock Osweiler… he’s a $72 million player who can only throw check-downs, and we couldn’t even take one game? Jeez. But other than that it was truly an incredible year of football, and I can’t wait for our next Super Bowl Champion to be crowned.
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- Matt Ryan
- Tom Brady
- Dak Prescott
- Aaron Rodgers