2019 Fantasy Football Awards
Who doesn’t love a good awards show? The 2019 season has reached its conclusion. Before we jump into the process of looking towards the 2020 season, which pretty much begins right after the Super Bowl, let’s take a look back at the season that was and hand out some awards.
The 2019 season was a fun one (aren’t they all?), and these awards are no different. We’ve got someone serious awards and some fun awards. Consider this a break from the grind and the constant process and a chance to just reflect and have fun. Here we go.
Most Valuable Player
Winner: Lamar Jackson (QB – BAL)
I can’t imagine anyone would argue with this pick. While Christian McCaffrey had the most dominant running back season in the history of fantasy football, he still cost a top two or three pick. Dalvin Cook gets a nomination purely because he was an early second-round pick that provided elite first-round value. Michael Thomas had the highest non-CMC floor in fantasy and broke the single-season receptions record. But this is Lamar Jackson’s award.
Jackson, like McCaffrey, had the most dominant season in the history of fantasy football at his position. Jackson, unlike McCaffrey, was drafted in the double-digit rounds. That is the difference here. Jackson averaged 1.6 more points per game than 2018 Patrick Mahomes and 6.1 more points per game than the second-best quarterback this season, Deshaun Watson. Not bad for a running back.
Least Valuable Player
Winner: Odell Beckham (WR – CLE)
JuJu Smith-Schuster wasn’t even a WR3 this season, but he lost his quarterback in Week 2, and once he got hurt, it was clear that he should not be started in fantasy anymore.
David Johnson was an elite RB1 for the first six weeks before an injury derailed his season. He was literally useless, but you knew that after the infamous Chase Edmonds game so you stopped starting him.
Brandin Cooks was a late third-round pick that was droppable by midseason. While that’s an awful return on investment, Cooks was by far the cheapest of the four nominees, and you were able to get away from him pretty quickly.
Your clear “winner” is Odell Beckham. You thought you were getting an elite talent moving to an improving offense as the primary receiver. Instead, you got the clear WR2 on the Browns (after seeing 16 weeks play out, we can now definitively say Jarvis Landry was the Browns’ best receiver, and it wasn’t particularly close) who played every game and made it very hard to bench him. Beckham absolutely destroyed fantasy seasons because you kept starting him. That is the primary difference between Beckham and the other three nominees.
Beckham finished as a low WR3 (for context, Landry was a low WR2). He averaged 12.3 fantasy points per game, the same as Cole Beasley, and 2.4 fewer PPG than Landry. Beckham gave you a truly elite performance in Week 2 against the Jets because of one single play. He also gave you a low WR1 performance in Week 12 against the Dolphins. That’s it. That’s all you got. Every other week, Beckham was a net negative on your team. He finished outside the top-30 wide receivers nine times. You will surely find many fantasy owners swearing off Beckham for good after this year’s disaster.
Second-Year Breakout Award
Winner: Courtland Sutton (WR – DEN)
This was a legitimate competition, and I was very close to giving this to D.J. Moore, who is on his way to being a fantasy WR1 if he can get a quarterback. Moore did average 1.2 more fantasy points per game than Courtland Sutton (and Gallup was just 0.4 PPG behind Sutton), but the reason it goes to Sutton is because of cost and prospect profile. Sutton projects as a true alpha WR1 in the mold of someone like Julio Jones or A.J. Green. He’s that type of player. For that reason, he naturally carries a higher ceiling than Moore or Gallup. There were concerns over Sutton after he failed to break out while being the primary option at the end of 2018. He put those concerns to rest, thriving with Joe Flacco, Brandon Allen, and Drew Lock.
Sutton was a double-digit round pick that returned WR2 value. While Moore was the better fantasy asset, he also cost a fifth-round pick. Gallup was similarly valuable, but he just wasn’t as good as Sutton. So your 2018 second-year breakout start is Courtland Sutton.
Overhyped Rookie Award
Winner: David Montgomery (RB – CHI)
While the hype on Darwin Thompson and Darrell Henderson pushed their ADPs into the single digits, they still only cost eighth or ninth round picks, at most. Then, you saw one week and dropped them. No real harm done. David Montgomery, on the other hand, epitomized fool’s gold.
I have a well-documented history of hating on Montgomery because I didn’t understand the hype. Montgomery was drafted onto an offense that was mediocre, at best, and was staring down the barrel of a three-way timeshare. While Mike Davis went the way of the dodo bird rather quickly, Tarik Cohen was never going away and was always going to be the primary passing-down back. Montgomery’s best skill is his ability in the passing game, but he’s nowhere near as good as Cohen. Therefore, we had a player with a very low opportunity ceiling. Then, there’s the added fact that Montgomery was just a terrible running back prospect. He’s a slow, unathletic player with bottom percentile burst. Fantasy analysts became enamored with his “Ameer Abdullah moment” in the preseason, where he made a nice cut and ran for a touchdown, spiking his ADP into the early fourth round. The preseason is not real football, and when he’s up against actual starting linebackers, Montgomery can make all the LeSean McCoy cuts he wants, but they will do him no good when he has the acceleration of Philip Rivers. Unsurprisingly, Montgomery barely averaged double-digit fantasy points, 10.2 PPG, and finished as a mid RB3. You would have been far better off spending a late dart throw pick on 2018’s overhyped rookie, Ronald Jones.
Failure to Launch Award
Winner: Curtis Samuel (WR – CAR)
To be clear, I love Christian Kirk and Curtis Samuel (and Robby Anderson is cool, too). Kirk had bad touchdown luck, and the Cardinals were just very inefficient in the red zone. Anderson had to deal with a tough cornerback schedule and missing his quarterback for a period of time. The reason this award goes to Samuel is that Samuel went from a 10th or 11th round flier to a seventh or eighth-round pick as talk of how great he looked in camp got out of control.
Unfortunately, Samuel never got going. He finished on the WR3/4 borderline, which was pretty much his projected floor. That would’ve been fine had his ADP remained in the 10th round. In the seventh round, it’s a huge disappointment. However, not only am I not putting this on Samuel, I am assigning literally zero blame to the player himself. Kyle Allen is one of the worst quarterbacks I have ever seen. Samuel was 10th in the league in total air yards and routinely torched helpless cornerbacks deep only to watch pass after pass sail over his head. There is a parallel universe where Samuel finished with 400 more receiving yards and five more touchdowns. There was probably even more than that left on the table. Allen was not capable of connecting with a wide-open Samuel deep even once this season. I will be all over Samuel again heading into 2020, but there is no question he failed to launch in 2019.
Fool Me Once, Shame On You, Fool Me Four Times Award
Winner: Sammy Watkins (WR – KC)
Really, people? Really? I don’t know what’s worse — the number of people that drafted Sammy Watkins in the eighth or ninth round, or the fact that very late in the regular season, Watkins was still being ranked in the top-36 receivers. What more does this guy have to do to prove he is absolutely terrible at football? When Watkins was on one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL in 2017 and could only muster up 39 catches for 593 yards, was that not a clear signal that he’s a bad wide receiver? When Watkins could only muster up 40 receptions for 519 yards in a season where Patrick Mahomes threw 50 touchdowns, was that not a clear signal that he’s a bad wide receiver? Watkins scored 34.2% of his season total fantasy points in Week 1, including all three of his touchdowns. Watkins has not been anything resembling a guy who belongs in the NFL since 2015, yet fantasy owners keep drafting him. Four years is a long time. We all understand why Watkins should be good. Now we must accept that he is not.
Running Backs Don’t Matter Award
Winner: Raheem Mostert (RB – SF)
Is it Jerick McKinnon? Is it Tevin Coleman? Is it Matt Breida? Better avoid the 49ers backfield because no one knows who the guy will be. That turned out to be correct because the answer was Raheem Mostert. Kyle Shanahan’s running scheme is so good that a 27-year-old former undrafted free agent turned out to be the team’s best running back. Why spend all that money on Coleman or McKinnon (who has yet to play a snap for the 49ers) when you can just put anyone back there? Raheem Mostert proved, once and for all, that running backs don’t matter…
Except When They Do Award
Winner: Sony Michel (RB – NE)
I should probably have given this award to Kalen Ballage, but no one was drafting Ballage in the fourth round. Kalen Ballage is, definitively, the worst running back in the history of professional football. It’s not a debate. He wins. Running backs don’t matter, except when the player is so devoid of talent that he is incapable of producing even in the most favorable conditions. That is Sony Michel.
Michel’s ADP spiked when the reports came out about how he was being used in the passing game. Fantasy owners’ eyes lit up at the notion of getting a three-down back on the Patriots. Fun fact: the last three-down back in New England was 2012 Stevan Ridley. Michel ended up seeing all of 20 targets on the season. He was one of the most touchdown-dependent running backs in the league, which is a problem for a player that doesn’t score touchdowns. Michel scored a touchdown in Weeks 2, 3, and 5. He scored three touchdowns in Week 7. Those were the last three touchdowns he scored on the season. Michel finished higher than RB22 just twice all season, and he failed to reach double-digit fantasy points nine times. Even in games where the Patriots experienced significant positive game script, Michel was largely useless. He is below replacement level, and the Patriots would be better off with almost anyone else.
The Taysom Hill Award
Winner: Taysom Hill (QB – NO)
Did you think it would be anyone else? Taysom Hill is unlike any player we’ve ever seen before. He comes in the game, and the defense knows there will be some chicanery. Hill didn’t throw a touchdown this season, but he rushed for one and caught six! Here are some players that caught fewer touchdowns than Hill: Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Davante Adams, Odell Beckham, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Robert Woods, Mike Williams. Taysom freaking Hill!
“This is the year…again…again…again…again” Award
Winner: DeVante Parker (WR – MIA)
Do you know how many first-round “bust” wide receivers have broken out after their third year in the league? Literally zero…until now. DeVante Parker was a bust. He spent four years in the league, and at no point did he demonstrate any ability to be a productive NFL receiver. At best, he was a complementary piece. In 2018, Parker played 11 games and caught 24 balls for 309 yards and one touchdown.
But just like every year of his career, we heard all the preseason buzz about how great Parker looked at practice. Except for this time when no one bought it. Parker was barely drafted. After all, he was a Dolphin, and the gig was finally up…until it wasn’t. Not only was Parker productive, but he was a true alpha at the position, finally living up to the A.J. Green comparison he got out of college. Parker caught 72 passes for 1202 yards and nine touchdowns. More importantly, he was a paradigm of consistency. From Week 4 through Week 15, excluding a concussion-shortened Week 14, Parker scored double-digit fantasy points in every game. He improved as the season went on, graduating from a floor-based WR3 to an every week high-end WR2. Parker will be a very interesting case entering 2020.
The Get Me Out of Miami Award
Winner: Kenyan Drake (RB – ARI)
Honorable Mention: Ryan Tannehill
While no one saw Ryan Tannehill taking over for Marcus Mariota and not only leading the Titans to the playoffs but also performing as an elite fantasy quarterback in the process, no one needed out of Miami more than Kenyan Drake. While Drake had never been a three-down back at any level of football, his athletic profile and skillset made him a very good running back prospect. It was inexplicable as to why the Dolphins were pushing the worst running back in NFL history ahead of him. Finally out of Miami, Drake became an every-down back for the Cardinals and gave fantasy owners three top-three finishes, including Weeks 15 and 16. Drake has earned the right to be the Cardinals’ primary back in 2020.
The How Are You An Actual NFL Player Award
Winner: Kalen Ballage (RB – MIA)
I’ve mentioned Kalen Ballage far too many times already, so I’ll keep this brief. He’s the worst running back in NFL history. He was so bad in college that he was never able to take over Arizona State’s backfield, despite playing four years and sharing a backfield with non-NFL talents. Then Ballage came into the NFL, ducked out of the way of passes, and averaged 1.8 yards per carry — the lowest rate in NFL history for a player with at least 70 carries. Ballage actually averaged 1.8 true yards per carry as well, which is curious because true YPC discounts runs of 10+ yards so as to truly measure a player’s consistency. How come the numbers were the same? You already know. It’s because Ballage, on his 74 carries, never rushed for 10 yards in any of them. Ballage’s longest rush of the season was eight yards. He only had eight rushes of more than five yards. It is likely that Ballage has already played his final snap in the NFL.
The I Can’t Believe He Played
16 15 Games Award
Winner: Leonard Fournette (RB – JAX)
I won’t knock Leonard Fournette for failing to actually play 16 games. He played in all 15 games of the fantasy season, and it was pretty clear his Week 16 “injury” was more “I don’t feel well, and this game doesn’t matter.” Fournette would’ve played if the game had mattered. Despite entering just his third NFL season, Fournette had somehow been given the injury-prone label, which was a bit unfair for a guy that played 13 games as a rookie and basically had one hamstring injury as a sophomore that he just never let heal. Fournette entered 2019 fully healthy and was not even on the injury report until Week 17. Kudos to Fournette for making it through a full season. Hopefully he can do it again in 2020, where touchdown regression is primed to make him a potential league-winning pick.
The One Week Superstar Award
Winner: Antonio Brown (WR – FA)
Remember this guy? Antonio Brown did actually play one week in the 2019 season. On just 33.3% of the snaps, AB posted 16.1 fantasy points. He was merely the WR25 on the week, but that was more due to spike performances by other players. 16.1 fantasy points is a very good week. That was Brown’s only game of the season. When he worked out for the Saints prior to Week 17, he reportedly looked fantastic. Well…duh. At no point was there ever any concern over AB’s talent. He’s not done. Not even close. If he can get his head on straight, he’s still one of the best receivers in the league. And if he is cleared to play in 2020, he will belong right back at the top of draft boards.
The He’s Coming Back Next Week Award
Winner: A.J. Green (WR – CIN)
One of the most impressive charades in the history of football is the one the Bengals pulled with A.J. Green. And by impressive, I mean pathetic. The Bengals decided to play the entire 2019 season with 52 players while every other team got to use 53 because they refused to admit that A.J. Green was not playing football this season. Once the winless Bengals came out of their bye and Green did not play, that was it. It was over. There was officially a 0% chance he was playing a snap. Yet, the Bengals refused to place him on IR and continued to call him week to week. They fooled no one. It was nothing more than comic relief when they placed him on IR after Week 16. They literally waited as long as possible. Congratulations, Cincinnati, you played yourself.
Enjoy the NFL playoffs, and someone, find me a fantasy XFL league!