I’m usually reflective when we get to the midway point of the NFL season. I love to sit back, let things marinate, and get hyped over both the future of the season and the great football we’ve already got to enjoy. Here at the halfway point of the 2020 season, I’m feeling especially grateful.
With that in mind, in lieu of my usually advanced metrics column, we’re going to hand out some midseason awards for the 2020 fantasy football season. I’ll still sprinkle in advanced metrics in the bulk of the blurbs for you stat-heads and, in the theme of staying thankful and uplifting, we’re going to keep these to mostly positive designations.
Fantasy MVP Award: Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
Much like the real-life NFL version of this award, we can keep it pretty simple. The MVP honor typically goes to the best player in the sport on one of the best teams. If you drafted Alvin Kamara in fantasy this year and you don’t have a top team in your league, that’s on you or the cruel twists of fate.
Kamara has pretty much been the RB1 from the jump this season. He’s been the best player at the most valuable position in fantasy with almost no debate. Kamara leads all running backs by a country mile with 55 catches and is responsible for 35.6 percent of New Orleans’ yards from scrimmage (he’s the only back over 30 percent).
The top four or five backs taken in August drafts were all considered pretty safe picks. Eight weeks into the season it’s clearly Kamara above all the rest.
Comeback Player of the Year Award: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
No one really cares about Ben Roethlisberger and his QB22 (points per game) ranking. However, his mere presence and the clear and present upgrade he’s brought to the Steelers offense has made a huge difference.
You remember the Steelers offense from 2019, right? The efforts of a couple of twisting-in-the-wind quarterbacks sunk the entire operation even though there was clearly talent in the wide receiver room and the running back rotation.
Pittsburgh now sports a top-12 running back in James Conner — who was a major value with a Round 3 ADP this August — along with three wide receivers we consider starting on a weekly basis here in 2020. I mean, even Eric Ebron has been a popular streaming tight end.
Without Roethlisberger, none of that is possible.
‘Maybe Next Year’ Award: All Dallas Cowboys players
It’s unbelievable that the Dallas offense went from a literal record-breaking pace with Dak Prescott under center to not even worth talking about just three weeks after his season-ending injury. So, Jerry Jones, if you’re reading this (he’s not), go pay Prescott all the money he wants right this instant.
At least we know a Big-12 style fantasy bonanza is within the range of outcomes for the Dallas offense as currently constructed. They’ll almost certainly be running it back with this skill-position group in 2021. Fingers crossed we get right back to where we left off.
Rookie of the Year Award: Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings
I was one of the goofballs theorizing to the masses that a truncated offseason would be bad news for the early impact of incoming rookies. Considering this award might be the most difficult to pick, that looks like a horrendous take.
The title is going to Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings, who has been — no joke — one of the best receivers in football this season. Since he hit the field as a starter for the Vikings in Week 3 through Week 8, Jefferson is tied with DK Metcalf for second in receiving yards and has scored three touchdowns. He has a 26 percent share of the team targets. With Adam Thielen checking in at 27.8 percent, these two have been the bulk of the passing game. Jefferson’s beefy 19 yards per catch shows he’s far more than just the slot receiver folks pegged him as coming into the league.
Waiver-wire Hero Award: James Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
In the early hours following Leonard Fournette being released by the Jacksonville Jaguars, fantasy drafters were sent into a tizzy debating between taking the upside flier on Ryquell Armstead or Devine Ozigbo or just taking the safe PRR play in Chris Thompson. All wrong answers there.
James Robinson quickly established himself as the guy for the Jaguars and never looked back. Robinson has 107 carries on the season; the next-highest Jaguars back checks in with six. He’s run 97 routes on the season and accounts for 28 percent of Jacksonville’s yards from scrimmage. That’s the definition of a workhorse.
If you were one of the few who picked up Robinson heading into the season or one of the many who added him after Week 1, you hit a home run with the RB5 overall. Now you just have to hope a suddenly strange Jaguars quarterback room doesn’t muck things up.
Waiver-wire Zero Award: New York Giants RBs
Not only did players like Dion Lewis or Devonta Freeman (signed later in the week) not change your fantasy season after Saquon Barkley’s injury, the circumstances make it even worse.
Recall that not only did Barkley go down with a season-ending ACL injury, Christian McCaffrey was also lost for a significant stretch coming out of Week 2. Fantasy managers were likely forced to choose between these New York backs and Mike Davis. If you went Big Blue ... ouch.
Freeman has been stuffed for a gain of zero or negative yardage on 13 percent of his carries. Lewis, a supposed pass-catching specialist, has run just 15 routes per game.
Perhaps Wayne Gallman is the guy to turn this thing around. He’s the only Giants back to average more than 2.0 yards after contact per rush and has a touchdown in back-to-back games. But so far in 2020, if you spent any FAAB on a Giants back, you hate yourself.
Fantasy Game of the Year Award: Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings (Week 8)
It doesn’t get much better than Dalvin Cook’s 32 touches for 226 yards and four total touchdowns from Week 8 against the Packers. 54 percent of Cook’s yards against their putrid run defense came after contact and he broke nine tackles.
We’ve come to expect greatness from Cook, who leads the NFL with 11 rushing/receiving touchdowns despite missing time with an injury. But that Week 8 performance was one for the ages. It was the type of performance that single-handily tilts DFS standing. No Cook in Week 8, no money.
Fantasy ‘Sad of the Year’ Award: Alexander Mattison, RB, Minnesota Vikings (Week 6)
Ironically, Cook’s replacement in the one game that he missed gave us the biggest fantasy sad of 2020. Coming off a 136 total-yardage effort against the Seahawks the week prior, Alexander Mattison was set to be the DFS free-square and value play of the week against the Falcons.
Not quite. He turned in 30 scoreless yards on 11 touches.
Look, Mattison is legitimately good. He averages 4.4 yards per carry and 2.21 yards after contact per rush. The Falcons were an exploitable matchup. The process was right. However, Mattison was stuffed at the goal line early and Minnesota quickly lost control of the game script.
The process was right but it didn’t work out. Things happen. That’s the only real answer.
Worth more than the Hype Award: Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons
If you follow fantasy content for the bulk of the offseason, first of all, thank you. Secondly, you’re quite familiar with those of us in the bubble and our tendency to absolutely hype players well outside the reasonable realm of expectations. We get a lot wrong. We get some right.
And sometimes, it doesn’t just go right ... the player actually exceeds the hype. That’s certainly the case with Calvin Ridley in 2020. The Falcons wideout was aggressively ranked as a fringe WR1 in the summer and beloved by just about all analysts despite the presence of Julio Jones. It’s more than worked out. Ridley leads the NFL with 982 air yards and is the WR1 overall through eight weeks. You quite literally can’t ask for more of a hit.