End-of-Season Fantasy Football Awards

Our experts hand out their award picks for the fantasy season.

(Photo by William Howard/Icon Sportswire)

It is hard to believe that the 2018 NFL regular season has come and gone. One of the wildest seasons in recent memory, 2018 gave us incredible highlights and news stories that we never saw coming. We take a look back at this incredible season and hand out our awards for these well-deserved players.


Most Valuable Player of the Year

QB Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs)

Patrick Mahomes was money at the quarterback position for fantasy every week. In a 16 week season he only finished below 20 points three times. Mahomes averaged 27.06 points a week which was 4.28 points better than the next quarterback on the list. He was the years highest scorer for fantasy points, which would have been crazy to say during draft season. Mahomes was consistently being drafted in the double digit rounds. Sometimes coming off the board after most teams had their backup QBs or was drafted as a backup himself. Finishing 69 points ahead of the next best fantasy player, (QB Matt Ryan) proves that Mahomes was the MVP of fantasy. –Matt Bruening


Honorable Mention

RB Christian McCaffrey (Carolina Panthers)

RB Christian McCaffrey’s ADP might be his best friend in this argument, since highly productive RBs like Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, Todd Gurley, and Ezekiel Elliott, and even disappointments and busts like RBs David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell, and Leonard Fournette, all went before CMC in most fantasy leagues across the country. It wasn’t uncommon to see RB Melvin Gordon or even RB Kareem Hunt drafted ahead of him as well. Yet, it was McCaffrey who made the biggest leap, finishing as a top 3 RB in both PPR and standard leagues. He ran for over 1,000 yards and caught over 100 passes, while compiling 1,965 total yards. In fact, when you consider that he completed a 50-yard pass for a TD, you can say that he accumulated more than 2,000 all-purpose yards for fantasy. His 107 receptions broke RB Matt Forte’s record. And he is one of only six NFL rushers ever to accrue 1,000 rushing yards and 800 receiving yards. In short, he was both RB1 and WR2 at the same time. McCaffrey’s consistency and output is enough to warrant MVP discussion, but what cements his status for me is that unlike Gurley, Barkley, and Kamara, CMC dominated during the fantasy playoffs in Weeks 14, 15, and 16. In those three weeks alone, McCaffrey rushed for 217 yards and caught 26 receptions for 182 receiving yards, while also scoring two touchdowns. If you won your fantasy title with Gurley, Kamara, or Barkley, you won in spite of owning them, not because of them. McCaffrey, on the other hand, not only took you to the playoffs, he took many of you all the way once you got there. An all-time season from a player that won’t slip out of the top-5 in any drafts next year. –Paul Ghiglieri


Biggest Bust

RB Le’Veon Bell (Pittsburgh Steelers)

RB Le’Veon Bell was drafted in most leagues somewhere inside the top-four picks. In a lot of leagues, he even went number one overall. Most fantasy owners expected Bell to end his holdout in time for Week one against the Cleveland Browns. Even when Bell didn’t show, most expected he would miss one game, but no more than two, with three games missed being the absolute worst-case scenario. In the end, Bell didn’t play a single snap in 2018. And it wasn’t because he was injured – it was because he reneged on his promise to have the best season of his career and simply chose not to show up in an effort to preserve his body for a better contract if the Steelers refused to pay him what he believes he is worth. The word “bust” has been applied to many players in 2018, even first round players like RB David Johnson and RB Leonard Fournette. Johnson certainly didn’t live up to his draft status, but his 940 rushing yards and 50 receptions for 446 receiving yards, coupled with 10 total TDs, still made him a top 10-15 RB in almost every league, giving you at least a low-end RB1 or high end RB2. He also didn’t miss a single game in 2018 after getting knocked out for the year in Week one last season. Fournette wasn’t even half as valuable, gaining only 439 rushing yards and 185 receiving yards with just 6 total TDs in barely 8 games played. You could make the argument that at least Fournette had solid games in Weeks 10-12, potentially helping some owners reach the playoffs if they either held onto him or traded for him. You could have drafted almost any running back in football in place of Le’Veon Bell and received more production than what he provided. And the worst part is that most owners held onto him all season hoping he would suddenly report and give them RB1 production. Many owners traded valuable assets for him as well with the same belief, so it’s not like Bell’s decision just hurt those that had the misfortune of drafting him. It’s one thing for a player to get hurt in camp or on the first play of Week 1. At least you know he’s a sunk cost and can immediately begin planning for life without him. In Bell’s case, it was just weekly torture filled with the dashing of fantasy hope. It’s entirely possible that no player torpedoed more fantasy seasons for more people than Le’Veon Bell did this year. His 2018 no-show might go down as the biggest fantasy bust ever for anyone who didn’t have RB James Conner waiting in the wings. –Paul Ghiglieri


Honorable Mention

RB Leonard Fournette (Jacksonville Jaguars)

Chances are if you had Leonard Fournette this year, you weren’t “punching” playoff tickets any time soon. A player who was drafted within the top-20 in almost any standard league, his season was almost a parallel to the Jaguars as a whole. Preseason expectations, higher than the temperature on opening day. End result ended up being such disarray the future is blurry. There’s even rumors Fournette may be cut or traded in the off-season, as the front office is sick of his antics. Fournette in college at LSU was an absolute beast of speed and force, and has shown it at times, but sadly more often than not cannot showcase that, either due to lingering injuries or a suspension on his neck. You probably thought you could get 1,200 yards and at least 8 touchdowns from Leonard. You didn’t. He didn’t surpass 500 yards. He only played in 8 games. He took on a single game suspension . He finished 47th in rushing yards. Behind constant list competitors RB Mike Davis andRB Josh Adams. If you think I’m drafting Leonard next year, Fournette about it. –Matthew Bevins


Rookie of the Year

RB Saquon Barkley (New York Giants)

Barkley came into the 2018 season with a ton of hype, and was drafted in the first round of most leagues. While many didn’t think he would live up to a first round pick, and the lofty expectations that come with that he did. Barkley not only outproduce expectations but shattered them. He finished with 2,000 yards from scrimmage only the third player to do so in NFL history. While Barkley didn’t finish as the top RB in fantasy he finished only three points behind RB Todd Gurley albeit it Gurley not playing in the final three games. In his rookie season he finished as one of four running backs to score over 300 points in fantasy. An average of 21.27 points a week in half point PPR leagues was 7th best in fantasy. He should be considered for MVP, but due to players out producing their ADP by much more than Barkley, he’ll have to settle for Rookie of the Year. In all honesty it shouldn’t even be close either with him out scoring the next best rookie (QB Baker Mayfield) by 82 points. –Matthew Bruening


Honorable Mention

QB Baker Mayfield (Cleveland Browns)

Wow, was 2018 weird. Our top-three rookies of the year were the top-two picks, and an undrafted rookie playing for the team he grew up rooting for in RB Phillip Lindsay. Quarterback Baker Mayfield was the first overall pick, and “Money” helped either win some daily lineups for people, or cash out on those who took a chance on him. A team that had padlocked Bud Light fridges til win one, Baker almost single handedly (I’m looking at you, Nick Chubb) lead this team to an almost .500 record. It was inspiring, it was compassionate, and truly what the Rookie of the Year award could be shown as an expectancy of. Which rookie took over and helped his single team most. I’d be willing to fight with Baker on my side.

The season started with QB Tyrod Taylor at the helm, but quickly due to injury, Baker was placed in the starting lineup. and ended with Baker leading the team close to the playoffs, and in to a hopeful 2019. Just shy of 4,000 passing yards in 14 starts, Baker checked off all the boxes, and in many leagues due to the fact that Tyrod was set to start, cost you zero draft equity. What a value. –Matthew Bevins


Comeback Player of the Year

QB Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts)

QB Andrew Luck looked finished. His arm had seemingly devolved into a noodle, and the Colts brought in backup QB Jacoby Brissett to heave the ball 60 yards into the end zone for a desperation Hail Mary against the Eagles in Week three. Many fantasy owners may have even cast Luck to the waiver wire, thinking they’d cut their losses before it was too late. Those that did made a grave mistake. Luck would throw four TDs and 464 yards the next week against Houston, embarking on a streak of eight straight games with three or more TDs. He would throw four TDs twice more during that stretch as well. By season’s end, Luck would finish with 4,593 passing yards, 39 TDs, and 148 rushing yards. The Colts found their footing and made the playoffs because of him. Unlike many fantasy owners, the team was patient with its franchise QB as his shoulder regained its strength. And those owners who waited or traded for him were rewarded with a top-5 quarterback. For a player who once looked like a generational talent that hadn’t thrown a pass since 2016 when injuries began to threaten what looked like a Hall of Fame-trajectory, Luck’s career came full circle in 2018 with his return to elite QB status in both real and fantasy football. It’s hard to argue a better comeback story, and it may be equally hard to argue why Luck shouldn’t be the second QB taken in next year’s drafts after QB Patrick Mahomes is off the board. –Paul Ghiglieri


Honorable Mention

QB Deshaun Watson (Houston Texans)

Deshaun Watson began his career with a bang. In his rookie campaign, Watson looked like he had the potential to win the MVP with his performance. Unfortunately, that all came to a screeching halt when he injured his knee. After a slow start to begin this season, Watson began to look like the QB we remembered from last year halfway through the season. He went on a tear down the stretch and put together a campaign that would finish fourth amongst quarterbacks in fantasy. With the help of fellow wideout Deandre Hopkins, Watson will lead his team into the wildcard round to face division rival and our comeback player winner QB Andrew Luck.- Aaron Rader


Draft Day Steal 

QB Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs)

What can I say about this young man that has not already been stated? He is one-of-a-kind and is doing things that I have never seen done before in all my time watching football. He is must-watch tv and is now the must-draft number one QB for next year. According to FantasyPros.com, Patrick Mahomes had an average draft position of 110th overall. If you took the risk on draft day, you had arguably one of the best returns on investment that the fantasy football world has ever seen. He was easily the number one quarterback overall and it was not even close. He will be heavily coveted heading into next year, but congratulations to all of the owners who snagged him this year. –Aaron Rader


Honorable Mention

RB James Conner (Pittsburgh Steelers)

If not for an end of season injury matching up with the start of the fantasy playoffs, I likely would have picked RB James Conner as my fantasy MVP. Those who drafted him late in drafts were rewarded with 17.5 fantasy points per game, the seventh-best average for a running back. Conner stepped in immediately for RB Le’Veon Bell and scored 34 fantasy points in week one, and was an every week starter up until his injury. Conner was likely overlooked for this award because he wasn’t even drafted in some leagues, but that was a mistake. Conner is exactly the type of last round pick you should be looking for, he would have been worth the pick even if Bell had returned to the team after a few weeks. To get RB Melvin Gordon-like production out of your last pick is a huge draft day steal. –Erik Smith


Ol’ Reliable

RB Adrian Peterson (Washington Redskins)

If you had told me AP would finish in the top 20 running backs at the beginning of the 2018 season, I would have thought you were out of your mind. If the Washington Redskins did not have devastating injuries along their offensive line and to their quarterbacks, Peterson may have flirted with top-ten numbers. He looked reenergized and ran like he had something to prove. He tied 11th in rushing touchdowns and added 20 receptions on the season. Peterson’s future is unclear, but it would seem he still has plenty left to be a serviceable back for a team next year. –Aaron Rader


Honorable Mention

QB Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers)

Ugh, it’s the eighth round and you have no quarterback. Begrudgingly, you pick up Big Ben, and just hope you can sneak a solid late round quarterback. This scenario happens every year, and every year, Ben way outperforms expectations.  It’s been 14 years in the league, and in 2018, Ben got you just north of 5,000 yards, and cost you if anything a barely top ten round quarterback value.  Never once throwing under 200 yards, never once this year did he get a week of zero passing touchdowns. In some weeks, Ben could be elite. At the very least, he’s not going to blow your teams chances in a close match up by not showing up at all.

I’ll be rather transparent and say I’ve played out this exact scenario myself in many a league, and thankfully he can sit on your bench all year for fill ins or injury woes to your preferred starter. Bank on Ben in your top 10 QBs until he’s retired. –Matthew Bevins


Out of Left Field 

RB Phillip Lindsay (Denver Broncos)

This rookie was one of the biggest surprises of the year. He went undrafted, but the Denver Broncos took a chance on him, and boy did it pay off.  Many in the fantasy community believed RB Royce Freeman would be a workhorse back and their lottery ticket in 2018. Little did they know, the true lottery ticket was Lindsay. He finished 13th amongst running backs in total scoring and sixth in rushing touchdowns. He would have finished higher if not for the Denver coaches foolishly continuing to give Freeman more work and a devastating injury late in the year. It will be interesting to see where Lindsay ranks heading into drafts next season, but it is clear, he will be on everyone’s radar. –Aaron Rader


Honorable Mention

WR Tyler Lockett (Seattle Seahawks)

WR Tyler Lockett is certainly a talented wide receiver, as evidenced by his 4.40 40 yard dash, and he plays with QB Russell Wilson, so the fact that Lockett had a good season isn’t all that surprising. But the part that came out of left field was Lockett’s 10 touchdowns on the way to the being fantasy’s WR16. Lockett only had 70 targets on the year, yet scored more touchdowns than receivers with more than double his target number. Lockett only saw six red zone targets all year but was able to turn them into three touchdowns, as many touchdowns as RB Alvin Kamara had on 26 red zone targets. Lockett certainly has big play ability, but he had an average ADP of 150 for a reason, and banking on him to repeat this efficiency next year seems unwise. –Erik Smith


Best Free Agent Pickup

RB Damien Williams (Kansas City Chiefs) and RB Phillip Lindsay (Denver Broncos)

RB Damien Williams is unique in that he was the handcuff to a handcuff. Many fantasy playoff teams reached the postseason on the shoulders of RB Kareem Hunt. At the end of November, when Hunt was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list and released by the Chiefs, any owners who did not already have oft-injured RB Spencer Ware were left scrambling to fill the void. And if Ware was available, FAAB was emptied bidding for him on the wire. Savvy owners,  skeptical that HC Andy Reid would ride Ware like a bell-cow and opt for more of a committee approach, went contrarian and added Williams. At worse, Williams could offer some pass-catching value, and any back in that Chiefs’ offense was worth speculating on at the time. As it turns out, Ware lasted exactly 1 game before getting injured again, and Williams went on to post RB1 numbers in the FLEX spot of many owners, potentially winning fantasy championships in the process. In Weeks 14-16, Williams rushed for 166 yards and 3 TDs and caught 17 balls for 137 yards and an additional 2 TDs. While RB Phillip Lindsay was a worthy FA addition that helped carry many teams to the playoffs, Lindsay succumbed to injury and did little to help owners once they got there. His 1,200+ rushing and receiving yards and 10 total TDs made him an out-of-nowhere RB1, but back to nowhere he went when fantasy owners needed him most, while Williams may have rescued both Hunt owners, and those astute enough to pick him up, with fantasy glory.-Paul Ghiglieri

RB Phillip Lindsay was not getting drafted in most fantasy leagues heading into 2018, and for good reason. Lindsay was an undrafted 5’8” rookie running back who found himself behind 3rd round pick RB Royce Freeman and third-down back RB Devontae Booker on the Broncos depth chart. Lindsay was the clear best running back from week one on, however, posting 1037 rushing yards on 5.4 yards per carry with 10 all-purpose touchdowns. He averaged 14 fantasy points per game on his way to being the RB 13 in PPR leagues and was shockingly consistent for an undrafted rookie on a below average offense. Excluding week 17, Lindsay scored over 10 points in all but three weeks.

Lindsay is especially deserving of this award since most owners picked him up after week one and were able to start him all year, giving owners virtually an entire season of production. Looking ahead to next year, Lindsay might even have room for improvement, as he only caught 35 passes for 241 yards on the season despite showing pass catching ability. Expect Lindsay to be a popular pick in drafts next year, which will highlight just how good of a free agent pickup he was in 2018. -Erik Smith


Undeserved Hype

RB Royce Freeman (Denver Broncos)

Rookie running backs were the story of the 2017 season after the breakouts of RB Alvin Kamara, RB Christian McCaffrey, RB Kareem Hunt, RB Leonard Fournette, and RB Dalvin Cook. Going into drafts in 2018, fantasy owners were understandably trying to recapture that magic, and the result was inflated ADP’s for several rookie running backs. The worst example was Denver RB Royce Freeman, who had an average ADP of 41 and was the 18th running back off the board in this year’s drafts.

Freeman was not known as a dynamic athlete coming out of college, as evidenced by lasting until the third round of the NFL draft. It was clear from the beginning that he wouldn’t be a passing game factor, as RB Devontae Booker was penciled in for that role from the start of training camp. Another strike against Freeman was the Denver offense, as most would have predicted them to be an average unit at best. Freeman owners were left hoping for the Denver defense to be dominant, while the offense controlled the clock with a power running game. The Broncos were not able to fully execute that plan, and what we were left with was what we should have expected from the start. Freeman saw double-digit carries in only 5 games, and one of those was in week 17 when fantasy leagues had long been decided. Freeman ended 2018 as the RB47 in PPR leagues with 521 yards rushing on 4 yards per carry, only 14 receptions, and five total touchdowns. Freeman was certainly not worth his 4th round ADP. –Erik Smith

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