POSTED AT 10:00 AM ET, 01/ 4/2010
And the fantasy MVP goes to . . .
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To absolutely no one's surprise, this season's most valuable fantasy player is Chris Johnson.
The Tennessee running back was the talk of the fantasy world in just his second season, amassing an NFL-record 2,509 yards from scrimmage and scoring 16 total touchdowns while not missing a game.
Johnson's 98 points were second in the league among non-kickers, and he finished with 11 straight games of at least 100 rushing yards. Johnson three times had 232 yards or more from scrimmage and accounted for multiple touchdowns in six games.
Johnson's productivity compares favorably to some of the best fantasy seasons of all-time. Marshall Faulk, for instance, set the previous record for yards from scrimmage in 1999 (2,429) in 1999, but he had four fewer touchdowns than Johnson. Faulk did, however, score a then-record 26 touchdowns one season later while gaining 2,189 yards from scrimmage
In 1984, Eric Dickerson set the NFL record for rushing yards in a season with 2,105, but he finished witih fewer touchdowns (14) and yards from scrimmage (2,244) than Johnson.
While Johnson's performance -- especially down the stretch -- makes him the clear fantasy MVP, he needs to score more often to be considered among the all-time fantasy kings.
In 1995, all-time rushing leader Emmitt Smith scored a then-record 25 touchdowns to go along with 2,148 yards from scrimmage. Three years later, Terrell Davis scored 23 touchdowns and had 2,225 yards from scrimmage, including 2,008 yards rushing.
In 2005, Shaun Alexander had 1,958 yards from scrimmage but scored a then-record 28 touchdowns on his way to being named most valuable player. Then in 2006, LaDainian Tomlinson set the gold standard for fantasy excellence with 33 total touchdowns, including two passing, and 2,343 yards from scrimmage.
Historical comparisons not withstanding, Johnson delighted those who drafted him with his output over the final weeks of the season, when fantasy leagues hold their playoffs.
In Week 15, Johnson scored 15 fantasy points in standard-scoring formats (six points per touchdown; one point per 10 yard rushing; one point per 10 yards receiving), followed by 23 points in Week 16 and 31 points on Sunday.
Still, Johnson's touchdown total was not exceptional. Consider Titans teammate LenDale White scored 16 touchdowns last season, and he needed just 205 touches. Johnson had 408 touches this season.
Those are factors to mull for those who have the first overall pick next season. Yes, Johnson is the prohibitive top pick, but remember most players coming off career years dropped off significantly the following season.
Tomlinson, for example, went from 33 touchdowns to 18. Alexander went from 28 to seven, and Smith from 25 to 15.
The exception of course is Faulk, who followed his record-setting season in yards from scrimmage with a record season for touchdowns. Fantasy players who have the No. 1 overall pick better hope that's also the trajectory Johnson follows.
POSTED AT 10:00 AM ET, 12/31/2009
Player of the decade
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The best: Peyton Manning
The next: LaDainian Tomlison
The rest: Randy Moss, Brett Favre, Terrell Owens
There's really no wrong choice when deciding between Peyton Manning and LaDainian Tomlinson as this decade's most valuable fantasy player. Owners who drafted either rarely were disappointed, and both were top 10 picks in just about every season during the 2000s.
But Manning edges out Tomlinson based on the final two seasons of the decade. From 2008 through Week 16 of this season, Manning averaged 271 yards and 1.9 touchdown passes per game. Tomlinson, meantime, averaged 64 rushing yards, 19.4 receiving yards and .83 touchdowns a game over the same span.
Manning simply has not had a mediocre season this decade. Last season Manning threw 27 touchdowns, which were the second fewest of his career, yet he was named the league's most valuable player.
After a two-year stretch during which he accounted for 52 total touchdowns, Tomlinson since has scored 24. At 30 years old this season, Tomlinson clearly has lost the breakaway speed and quickness that carried him to the MVP trophy in 2006, and he is now a RB2 in most formats.
Next season Manning remains a legitimate first-round pick, but Tomlinson probably will fall to the mid-rounds in most leagues. There's at least a dozen other running backs who should go ahead of LT, and some of them -- Jonathan Stewart, for instance -- are currently backups on their respective teams.
POSTED AT 10:00 AM ET, 12/30/2009
Wide receivers of the decade
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The best: Randy Moss
The next: Terrell Owens
The rest: Marvin Harrison, Torry Holt, Chad Ochocinco
Picking the best fantasy wide receiver of the decade was by far the most difficult among all the positions. The final decision came down to Terrell Owens and Randy Moss, and you could make compellng arguments for either one.
Moss was the better fantasy wide receiver by a razor-thin margin because of availability. During the 2000s, both players had similar receiving numbers, but Moss played in 153 games to 141 for Owens, who missed time when fantasy owners needed him most.
Take the 2002 season, when Owens missed the final two games. That's the fantasy playoffs in every league. Meantime in the final two games of 2002, Moss had 109 and 110 yards receiving, respectively.
The following year, Owens missed the final game of the season while Moss had 56 yards and one touchdown, good for 11 points in standard-scoring formats. Then in 2004, Owens missed the final two games with an ankle injury. Moss missed three games that season, but he was back for the fantasy playoffs and had nine and 12 points in the final two weeks, respectively.
In 2005, the Eagles were so sick of Owens that Coach Andy Reid sent him home for the final nine games of the season even though Owens was averaging 109 receiving yards per game and had six touchdowns.
Moss played his first season with Oakland in 2005, and although he had a down year with 1,005 yards and eight touchdowns, he finished with 116 yards and two touchdowns in the final game. Those are statistics any fantasy owner gladly would take in his league title game.
Then there's this season in which Moss continues to produce while Owens is stuck in a terrible offense in Buffalo. With one game left, Moss has 1,189 yards and 13 touchdowns, including three in Week 16. Owens has 764 yards and four touchdowns.
Moss is leading the NFL in receiving touchdowns, and if he finishes at the top, it will be the fourth time this decade he has done so. Moss and Owens each has led the league in touchdown receptions three times in the 2000s.
POSTED AT 10:00 AM ET, 12/29/2009
Running backs of the decade
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The best: LaDainian Tomlinson
The next: Shaun Alexander
The rest: Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis, Jamal Lewis
LaDainian Tomlinson defined the running back position in fantasy during the first decade of the 21st century.
Based on touchdown average (total touchdowns divided by games played), not only is Tomlinson the fantasy running back of the decade, but you could make a reasonable argument for him being the most valuable player in fantasy history.
Tomlinson averages 1.14 touchdowns per game, the best in NFL history among running backs who have played a minimum of 68 games. That's how many games Gale Sayers played before retiring, and the Hall of Famer's touchdown average of .706 is one of the highest of all-time.
To give you an idea of the separation between Tomlinson and other prolific touchdown scorers, consider Emmitt Smith's touchdown average is .779. Smith is the all-time leader in rushing touchdowns (164).
Since his rookie season in 2001, Tomlinson has averaged 16 fantasy points per game in standard-scoring formats (six points per touchdown; one point per 10 yards rushing; one point per 10 yards receiving). But perhaps the best indicator of just how good Tomlinson has been is that this season he has 12 touchdowns, which by his standards constitute a down year.
It was a close decision for the second best fantasy running back of the decade. The choices came down to Shaun Alexander and Edgerrin James, with Alexander winning out because of his .911 touchdown average (second all-time).
From 2001 to 2005, Alexander played in all 80 regular season games and had no fewer than 16 total touchdowns in each of those seasons. In 2004 and 2005, he scored 20 and a then-record 28 total touchdowns respectively. Tomlinson, Smith and Marshall Faulk are the only other players in NFL history to have consecutive seasons of at least 20 touchdowns.
James's touchdown average of .561 kept him from supplanting Alexander as the decade's second best fantasy running back, but in yardage-heavy leagues, the two-time rushing champion was more consistent throughout the 2000s.
Since 2000, James has had seven seasons of at least 1,343 yards from scrimmage and four seasons with at least nine total touchdowns. As for durability, James entering this season had played in at least 13 games all but once.
POSTED AT 2:00 PM ET, 12/28/2009
Quarterbacks of the decade
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The best: Peyton Manning
The next: Brett Favre
The rest: Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Kurt Warner
While others may have had a season or two of staggering numbers, Manning produced at such a high level so often that he is without peer among the decade's fantasy quarterbacks.
Since 2000, he has averaged 4,216 yards and 31 touchdowns per season, including a then-record 49 touchdowns in 2004. During this decade, Manning once has failed to reach 4,000 yards passing and never has thrown fewer than 26 touchdowns.
Best of all, you know injuries won't sideline him for the fantasy playoffs, even if a coach's decision does.
There's a lot to be said about a player whom you know will be in your lineup each week and produce on average 264 yards and two touchdowns every start. That's what separates Manning from the rest of the fantasy quarterback field.
Because availability is one of the most important factors in rating fantasy players, Favre is second among the decade's best. Favre also has not missed a start in his career and has averaged 3,780 yards and 26 touchdowns per season since 2000.
Brady, Brees and Warner all had outstanding seasons during the 2000s, but none did so as consistently as Manning or Favre.
Take Brady's record-setting 2007, when he threw 50 touchdown passes and carried many owners to fantasy titles. The following season, Brady was lost for the season in Week 1 because of a knee injury.
Brees has been durable since a shoulder injury ended his 2003 season after 11 games. In six subsequent seasons, Brees has missed just one game while averaging 4,172 yards and 29 touchdowns.
Warner, meantime, has had a career renaissance over the past three seasons after emerging as the top fantasy quarterback to start this decade. In 2001, Warner threw for 4,830 yards and 36 touchdowns, then had a five-year lull during which he became a fantasy afterthought.
But after becoming Arizona's full-time starter in 2007, Warner again is among the elite fantasy quarterbacks.
The next decade figures to belong to the likes of Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Schaub, all of whom are giving fantasy owners reason to reevaluate the top three at the position.
Regardless, Manning remains the safest pick at quarterback and perhaps in all of fantasy.
POSTED AT 10:00 AM ET, 12/28/2009
A decade of fantasy excellence
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This decade was unmatched when it came to fantasy superlatives. It started off with Marshall Faulk setting the NFL record for touchdowns (26) in 2000. Then the record fell twice more, including in 2006 when LaDainian Tomlinson had the most prolific season by a running back in fantasy football history.
In 2007, Tom Brady broke Peyton Manning's record for touchdown passes in a season in becoming the only player in NFL history to throw 50. Randy Moss was the main beneficiary of Brady's MVP season, setting the record for most touchdown catches (23) while amassing 1,493 yards on 98 receptions.
Moss was one of two wide receivers to lead the league in receiving touchdowns three times during the first decade of the 21st century. The other was Terrell Owens, who reached double figures in receiving touchdowns in seven of 10 years.
The 2000s were memorable from a fantasy perspective largely for the wide receivers. As passing became the preferred method of moving the ball in the NFL during the decade, Moss, Owens, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Torry Holt, Andre Johnson and Steve Smith, among many others, were coveted in drafts while running backs became an afterthought in many leagues.
Even tight ends rose on many draft boards, with such luminaries as Antonio Gates, Dallas Clark, Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten selected in the fifth round or higher. This season, outstanding fantasy tight ends became more prevalent with the emergence of Vernon Davis, Brent Celek and Owen Daniels, just to name a few.
With the 2000s drawing to a close, we'll pick the fantasy the players of the decade at quarterback, running back and wide receiver this week, along with the decade's most valuable fantasy player.
Most important, we want your input, so we encourage you to participate in the online polls that will accompany the players of the decade lists.
POSTED AT 3:39 PM ET, 12/25/2009
Fantasy Checkup: Week 16
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Welcome back to Fantasy Checkup, where our medical professionals provide us analysis of significant injuries that could affect your fantasy lineups. Come back each Friday to hear what Brion Gardner, the staff orthopedist at Camp Lejeune, and Mackie Shilstone Executive Director of The Fitness Principles have to say about each week's injury report.
POSTED AT 1:00 PM ET, 12/23/2009
Waiver Wire Wednesday: Week 16
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A quick look at recommendations from some go-to sites around the Web:
FFToolbox Deep League Pickups: Jason Campbell, Chad Henne, James Davis, James Jones, Devin Thomas.
FFToday Digging Deeper: Alex Smith, Jason Snelling, Carnell Williams, Earl Bennett.
FantasyGuru: Jerome Harrison, Snelling, Maurice Morris, Josh Morgan, Mike Wallace, John Carlson, Laveranues Coles, Derrick Ward, Demetrius Williams, Deion Branch.
Yahoo Pickups of the Week (Strong Buys): Harrison, Michael Bush, Morris, Smith, 49ers defense.
FFJungle: Jermichael Finley, Harrison, Beanie Wells, Vince Young, Cardinals defense.
FootballDocs: Harrison, Bush, Morris, Justin Gage, Lance Moore, Danny Amendola, Todd Heap, David Thomas.
Bruno Boys: Harrison, Bush, Darren McFadden, Morris, Morgan.
CBS Sports: Bush, Morris, Snelling, David Thomas.
POSTED AT 11:30 AM ET, 12/23/2009
PvP: Week 15 wide receivers
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Vincent Jackson and the Panthers' Steve Smith were the highest scoring wide receivers this week, but neither was projected among the top 10.
Here's how the top 10 fared, with projections courtesy of Fantasy Football Nerd and one point awarded for each 10 yards receiving or rushing and six points per touchdown in a non-PPR format:
1. Andre Johnson: 16 projected points/19 points scored
2. Brandon Marshall: 13.4/13
3. Larry Fitzgerald: 13.2/9
4. Anquan Boldin: 13.2/13
5. DeSean Jackson: 13.1/20
6. Reggie Wayne: 12.8/19
7. Marques Colston: 12.2/8
8. Miles Austin: 12/19
9. Sidney Rice: 11.6/6
10. Wes Welker: 11.6/4
The biggest overachiever was Mike Wallace (3.9/19), who had two touchdowns on 79 yards during Pittsburgh's 37-36 victory over Green Bay in one of the more entertaining games this season for fantasy players.
Another overachiever was Braylon Edwards (6.8/16), whose 105 yards and a touchdown weren't enough as the Jets lost to Atlanta, 10-7.
POSTED AT 2:29 PM ET, 12/22/2009
PvP: Week 15 running backs
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The fantasy story of the week was Cleveland running back Jerome Harrison, who ran for 286 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-34 victory over Kansas City. Harrison broke Jim Brown's franchise record for rushing yards in a game, but more important for Harrison owners, he accounted for 47 points in most standard scoring leagues.
Meantime, none of the heralded fantasy running backs had especially noteworthy weeks, with all but two of the projected top 10 underperforming. Here's how the top 10 according to Fantasy Football Nerd fared, with six points for a touchdown and one point per 10 yards rushing and receiving.
1. Chris Johnson: 22.4 projected points/15 fantasy points
2 Ray Rice: 18.8/9
3. Adrian Peterson: 17.6/16
4. Maurice Jones-Drew: 17.5/25
5. Jamaal Charles: 16.8/22
6. Thomas Jones: 16.7/5
7. Ricky Williams: 15.9/14
8. Knowshon Moreno: 14.7/7
9. Frank Gore: 14/11
10. Steven Jackson: 13.4/12
Harrison has another favorable matchup at home against Oakland in Week 16, which is the fantasy Super Bowl in many leagues. The Raiders really struggle against the run, yielding 149 yards per game (28th). They also have allowed a league-high 20 rushing touchdowns.
Harrison was the best among several lesser-known running backs whose production far exceeded their projection. The Raiders' Michael Bush (2.9/20) ran for 137 yards and a touchdown and caught one pass for 11 yards, and Detroit's Maurice Morris (5.9/21) had 126 rushing yards with a touchdown and 35 receiving yards.
POSTED AT 11:00 AM ET, 12/21/2009
PvP: Week 15 quarterbacks
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Meantime, many Tom Brady owners probably lost in the playoffs because of one of his worst passing performances of the season. Ditto for owners who were starting Brett Favre in what seemed an attractive matchup against Carolina.
Here's this week's top 10, with projections courtesy of Fantasy Football Nerd. The scoring format is the industry standard, with one point awarded per 25 yards passing and six points for each touchdown. There are no deductions for interceptions.
1. Drew Brees: 22.1 projected points/17 fantasy points
2. Kurt Warner: 21.1/21
3. Peyton Manning: 20.5/36
4. Matt Schaub: 19.2/20
5. Philip Rivers: 19/30
6. Rodgers: 18.4/33
7. Tony Romo: 16.8/18
8. Donovan McNabb: 16.5/18
9. Favre: 16.5/8
10. Brady: 16.5/10
Roethlisberger (16/38) set a franchise record by passing for 503 yards. He also threw three touchdowns in a 37-36 victory over Green Bay in which Rodgers threw for 383 yards and three touchdowns.
That fantasy quarterback duel was reminiscent of the Nov. 22 game between Cleveland and Detroit in which the Browns' Brady Quinn and the Lions' Matthew Stafford combined to throw nine touchdowns. The Lions won, 38-37, after Stafford threw a touchdown on the final play of the game.
While we're talking about outstanding fantasy performances, let's not forget Joe Flacco, who this week was projected at 16.5 points but scored 33 on four touchdowns and 234 passing yards. That performance was completely unexpected considering Flacco had thrown four touchdowns and seven interceptions over his previous seven games before breaking out against Chicago on Sunday.
Then there's Manning, who also threw four touchdowns. But that really isn't news because he's just so good we've become accustomed to those kinds of games from one of the leading candidates for NFL and fantasy MVP.
Manning had his fourth four-touchdown game of the season and his second in a row. The question for Manning owners now is if he can do it again next week in the fantasy Super Bowl in most leagues.
The Colts, who have clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC, play the Jets in Week 16, and Manning owners will be keeping close track to see if Coach Jim Caldwell decides to rest his starters.