Winner – Russell Wilson: Russell Wilson is the perfect example of "it's not how you start; it's how you finish." Wilson's first two games totaled 356 passing yards, 74 rushing yards, 1 touchdown, no interceptions, and a lost fumble. Many fantasy owners jumped ship with Wilson racking up 23.64 fantasy points heading into Week 3.
That is when Wilson turned on the jets, amassing 318.84 fantasy points over the next 13 games. Only Deshaun Watson had a higher per-game fantasy point average (25.27 for Watson, 22.57 for Wilson) this season. Had he not gone down with a torn ACL, Watson very well could have been the #1 QB this season. As it stands, Wilson takes that 2017 honor.
Bust – Marcus Mariota: Mariota entered this season as a sleeper at QB for me, but those high hopes never came to fruition. Despite the Titans drafting Corey Davis with the No. 5 pick, pairing him with Eric Decker at WR and Delaine Walker at TE, the 3rd year QB out of Oregon finished the 2017 fantasy season ranked #17 for QBs, averaging a very modest 15 PPG.
His 3,098 passing yards ranked him 20th in the NFL, while his 12 passing TDs tied him for 26th, and his 15 INTs put him on the podium for 2nd place. Mariota might want to send DeShone Kizer a thank you card since he kept Mariota out of the #1 spot for INTs with his amazingly awful total of 21 for the [fantasy] season.
Sleeper – Jared Goff: Browns fans have to be hoping for a Goff-ian type turnaround from Kizer, but I wouldn't hold my breath if I were them. What Goff has done from year one to year two is simply amazing, going from 136.1 YPG passing in 2016, to 253.6 in 2017 with a WR corps that was no better than before. Sure, the Rams traded for Sammy Watkins. But he's accounted for more than 70 receiving yards just once for them since the move.
Goff finished his fantasy season with 3,804 passing yards (8th) and 28 passing TDs (tied for 4th), while throwing just 7 INTs (tied for 25th). With the Rams clinching the NFC West, and sporting an 11-4 record heading into the final game of the regular season, it is fair to say the Rams have found their franchise QB. Well done, Jared, well done!
Winner – Todd Gurley: It's not often that a fantasy RB pushes for the #1 overall ranking in a given season, as that is normally an honor a QB takes home. But like Goff, the 2017 season has been a magical one for Gurley as the RB finishes his season with 1,305 rushing yards,788 receiving yards (64 receptions), and has scored 19 TDs this season.
Rams Coach Sean McVay has already said Gurley and Goff will sit out Week 17, so those still playing will need to take heed to that news. Gurley will likely lose out on the rushing title this season since he is sitting out, and Kareem Hunt (1,292) and Le'Veon Bell (1,291) are close behind. Even if either plays a single quarter, they are likely to gain the 13/14 yards needed to surpass him. Regardless of that award, he was head-and-shoulders the best fantasy RB for the 2017 season. Not bad for a guy taken at the end of round 2!
Bust – David Johnson: David Johnson got just 17 touches into his 2017 when he went down for the year with a wrist injury. Even though the injury wasn't his fault, losing the No. 1 overall pick in most leagues is a hard pill to swallow!
There's not much else to say about Johnson other than he should hit the 2018 season at full strength. The real question for him, and the Cardinals, is who will be their QB and No. 1 WR? If Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer decide to call it a career, the Cardinals will lean heavily on Johnson… as they were going to do this season. The problem is, they won't have a QB and WR to take the heat off him.
With Gurley, Hunt, and the Saints RBs (Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara) tearing up the fantasy point totals this season, it is fair to say Johnson won't be the No. 1 overall pick in very many leagues next season.
Sleeper – Alvin Kamara: Kamara didn't enter the season on anyone's radar, but he certainly finished it there for next season. Kamara wasn't drafted in most 12-team formats with Mark Ingram holding down the No. 1 RB duties coming out of training camp. Kamara managed just 10 carries for 58 rushing yards, 10 receptions for 76 receiving yards, and a touchdown in the first 3 games of his NFL career.
But, like Russell Wilson, Kamara turned on the jets in Week 4 and never looked back, racking up 101 carries for 626 yards on the ground, and reeling in 65 catches for 666 yards in the air. Even more impressive, Kamara went on to score 11 TDs over the next 12 games. With his production at just over 95 total yards per game, and scoring nearly a touchdown every week, Kamara quickly became a must-start player in all formats.
He'll enter next season as a RB you'll have to draft in the 1st round if you want him. No more waiver wire gold for you owners here!
Winner – DeAndre Hopkins: The most amazing thing about what Hopkins has done this season is the fact that every time a QB for the Texans drops back, you pretty much know who he is throwing it to. If I know that, and you know that, you have to imagine the defensive coordinator knows that. Despite that, Hopkins finished his fantasy season leading the league in targets (174) and receiving touchdowns (13). He also managed to come in 2nd in receiving yards (1,378) and 5th in receptions (96).
Hopkins may not be the most well-known WR in the NFL with guys like Odell Beckham Jr. and Antonio Brown out there. But he is clearly one of the best WRs in the league, if not THE best. If Watson comes back at 100 percent next season, the sky is truly the limit for them. Don't let Hopkins fall to the end of the 3rd round again next year.
Bust – Terrelle Pryor Sr.: When Terrelle Pryor moved from the Browns to the Redskins, going from no QB to Kirk Cousins, his fantasy value peaked as a mid-3rd-round pick. I say peaked because he is never going to see a draft position that high again after burning owners with his 20 catches for 240 yards and a touchdown.
What is worse, Pryor made it through 9 games this season and still managed to average just 2.2 receptions and 26.7 yards per game. The Redskins weren't a downfield team this season, instead choosing to check down and "dink & dunk" their way down the field. With Cousins a free agent in the offseason, the Redskins may not be the same team we saw this season. Stay tuned.
Sleeper – Marvin Jones Jr.: Jones came out of the fantasy draft as the 92nd WR taken off the board more often than not, but he finished the season ranked #7 for WRs in PPR formats. Despite having just 102 targets this season (22nd for WRs), Jones wrangled in 57 (28th) of them for 1,020 yards (10th).
Jones deferred to Golden Tate for the first half of the season, with 740 of the 1,020 receiving yards coming after the Lions' Week 7 bye. Jones was a new man after the bye, clearly taking over the No. 1 WR role from Tate. With Tate under contract next season, then a FA in 2019, the Lions might have decided to go ahead and make the transition sooner, rather than later. Jones will need to see more targets next season to justify the higher draft position he will likely garner, but I would think he's shown enough to justify that in the Lions' eyes as well.
Winner – Zach Ertz: Tight end has always been an all-or-nothing position in fantasy football, so once you miss out on guys like Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce, you have to just do the best you can with what is left. Ertz was taken at the top of the 9th round in most leagues this season, but managed to rack up the 3rd-most fantasy points at TE with 126.00 for the season.
Ertz finished his fantasy season with 108 targets, 72 receptions, 800 receiving yards, and 8 touchdowns. It helps his cause that Carson Wentz was having an MVP season until he went down in Week 14 with a torn ACL. Even with Nick Foles at QB following Wentz's injury, Ertz remained heavily involved in the Eagles passing game.
Wentz is unlikely to be ready for Week 1 of the 2018 season, but Ertz has proven to be the safest option for the Eagles. He'll enter next season as the 3rd TE in my rankings, behind Gronk and Kelce.
Bust – Tyler Eifert: Eifert is going to be the first guy on peoples' minds when thinking of injury-plagued players that could have been one of the best at their position. He managed to play 15 games in his rookie season (2013), but then played in just 1 game in 2014, 13 in 2015, and 8 in 2016. He entered this season healthy, but once again suffered a season-ending injury (back) that limited him to 2 games, though he hauled in 4 of 5 targets for 46 yards and no touchdowns.
Eifert is clearly a talented TE that has game-changing ability when on the field. The problem is, he isn't on the field enough for fantasy owners to draft him and know they have that one position solved. Eifert is a FA this offseason, making his 2018 value highly dependent on where he lands. Even if he re-signs with the Bengals, they are going to be changing coaching staffs, leaving us to wonder what type of offense they will put together. He'll be a risk/reward draft option next season.
Sleeper – Evan Engram: When it came to rookie TEs taken in the draft, Engram and O.J. Howard were deadlocked at the 125th pick, on average. Howard went on to reel in 26 of 39 targets for 432 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns, and 2 lost fumbles. For his part, Engram hauled in 64 of his 115 targets, racking up 722 receiving yards and 6 TDs of his own.
Engram finished ranked 4th for TEs with 109.60 fantasy points, behind Gronkowski, Kelce, and Ertz. It's pretty amazing when you consider that the Giants lost virtually all their WRs to injury. With you and me on the WR radar for the Giants this season, Engram was the only viable option in the passing game. If he can keep this up next season, he will be the TE equivalent of DeAndre Hopkins; not the most well-known, but one of the most productive at his position.
Winner – Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars have been the most dominant defense we've seen in the past 15-plus years, racking up 52 sacks, 21 INTs, 11 recovered fumbles, 6 defensive touchdowns, a blocked extra point, and a PAT return score this season.
Calais Campbell finished 2nd for defensive linemen in IDP leagues thanks to his 14.5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, 3 forced fumbles, and a defensive TD. Telvin Smith came in 3rd for LBs thanks to his 93 total tackles, 3 INTs, and 2 defensive TDs. DB was more of a team effort. A.J. Bouye racked up 50 solo tackles, with 18 passes defended and 6 INTs, Barry Church finished with 52 solo tackles and 4 INTs, Tashaun Gipson had 49 solo tackles and 4 INTs, and Jalen Ramsey tallied up 50 solo tackles and 4 INTs of his own. Continued below…
Bust – Houston Texans: Fantasy owners had high hopes for the Texans defense with J.J. Watt anchoring them on the defensive line. However, Watt was on the field for just 5 games this year, after missing all but 3 games last year. Because of his absence, coupled with the loss of Bouye in the secondary, the Texans were a shadow of their 2016 self, finishing 26th for fantasy defenses, compared to 6th in 2015 when Watt played 16 games.
Jadeveon Clowney tried his best to step up, finishing with 52 total tackles, 21 tackles for loss, 9.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 recovered fumbles, and a defensive touchdown. However, it wasn't enough and the Texans finished being owned in 49 percent of Yahoo leagues, despite being drafted in 100 percent of them. Pretty much a waste of an 8th-round pick for owners who took them this season.
Sleeper – Jacksonville Jaguars: It's somewhat surprising that the Jaguars had only 4 defensive players selected to the Pro Bowl, with Yannick Ngakoue ranking 5th in the NFL with 12.0 sacks, 2nd in the AFC behind Campbell. Malik Jackson earned his new contract with his 8.0 sacks and 10 tackles for loss this season. Second-year LB Myles Jack was a jack of all trades, finishing with 87 total tackles and a fumble recovery he returned 81 yards for a touchdown.
The reason the Jaguars make not only the winners list (#1-ranked fantasy defense), but the sleepers list as well is because they were drafted in the 15th round on average this season, by just over 70 percent of owners. That means 30 percent of owners got the #1 defense off the waiver wire for free if they were savvy enough to jump on the train early.
From the defensive line to the safety position, there isn't a weak spot on the Jaguars defense. MLB Paul Posluszny and CB Aaron Colvin are FAs this offseason, so we will have to keep an eye on their situations to see if the defense can come back completely intact next year.
There you have it fantasy football lovers, the best and the worst of the 2017 season. Hopefully you made it to the very end and were able to take home your league title. Every year I play in my own personal league, which I came in 2nd place this year, as well as fan leagues that I'm invited into via social media. I won some, I lost some, but I didn't come in lower than 3rd place in any of the 49 leagues I was in this season.
The draft is only the first part of the season, with the waiver wire every bit as important once the season is underway. If you stay active, follow my advice, and make a smart trade or two, you too can finish the season drinking the beers and the tears of your league mates instead of Egg Nog at Christmas! Second place is just the first loser… and we don't like losers!