While a few leagues are still running through Week 17, the vast majority of fantasy football activity is officially over for the 2014 season. I have been receiving emails since Sunday from readers telling me about how they won their league this year, with a lot of the help coming from this very site thanks to the fantasy articles and advice. Let me just say that it has been a pleasure helping each and every one of you this year!
As we all know, the season starts with the draft. But what people have to remember is that fantasy football isn't a set it and forget it type of thing. You don't just draft a team, set a lineup, and check back in around Week 8 to see how things are going. NFL depth charts change almost every week with injuries, promotions, and demotions. Players sometimes wind up being busts while others go undrafted and end up being a sleeper.
In this final article we will take a look back at the season and see who ended up being a winner, a loser, a sleeper, and a bust in fantasy football this year. Sit back, grab your energy drink of choice, and hang on for the roller coaster ride that is the 2014 fantasy football recap!
Andrew Luck – Colts: Luck has been everything the Colts hoped he would be when they drafted him as Peyton Manning's replacement in 2012. This year Luck ranks out as the #1 fantasy player in the NFL thanks to his 4,601 passing yards, 268 rushing yards, and 41 total touchdowns (38 passing, 3 rushing). He did throw 16 INTs (3rd-most in NFL) and lose 6 fumbles (tied for most in NFL), but 16 picks off of 600 passing attempts really isn't unexpected. Luck will enter next season as an elite round 1 target for a lot of GMs.
Robert Griffin III – Redskins: RGIII just can't stay healthy, and the injuries have sapped the life straight out of his NFL career. You can see a clear regression this season when he is on the field, along with him playing like a man who doesn't want to get injured again. Many believe Jay Gruden doesn't trust him to be the Redskins QB of the future, so we might see a move this offseason involving either Gruden or Griffin.
Ryan Tannehill – Dolphins: People outside of Miami have been pretty critical of Tannehill because the Dolphins seem to hover right around .500 for most of the season. I personally don't think the fault lies with the young QB given that his 3,786 passing yards rank 11th in the NFL, his 26 TDs and 12 INTs both rank 12th, and his fantasy value ranks out at #9 for QBs on NFL.com this year. Tannehill was far more consistent than guys like Jay Cutler, Matthew Stafford, and Cam Newton, who were all considered must-starts most weeks by those big-box websites.
Johnny Manziel – Browns: Fans of Johnny Football waited all season long for him to get his shot at running the Browns offense, and that chance came in Week 15 against the Bengals. What happened was the exact opposite of legendary unless you consider 93 total yards (80 passing, 13 rushing), no TDs, and 2 INTs legendary. Manziel finished his rookie campaign completing 18 of 35 passes for 175 yards, no TDs, and 2 INTs, but was able to chip in 29 yards rushing and a touchdown. I personally don't think Manziel is an NFL QB, and I would avoid him like the plague in next year's fantasy draft if I were you.
DeMarco Murray – Cowboys: Depending on which game you play, NFL.com or Yahoo.com, Murray is ranked either #1 or #2 in the RB category, respectively. The interesting thing about Yahoo standard scoring leagues is Murray is their #2 overall scorer while he ranks out at #9 on NFL.com. No matter what, Murray has been a workhorse in both the NFL and fantasy football, carrying his teams in fantasy and reality all season long. He was less than stellar in Week 16 with him nursing a bad hand following surgery just a few days before. As long as his legs can carry the load, the Cowboys seem content to keep the ball on the ground and out of Tony Romo's hands for the most part.
Montee Ball – Broncos: Ball was taken on average at the end of the 1st round, with owners seeing images of the Broncos' high-powered offense leading him to fantasy glory. Those visions could now be explained more as fiction than fact with a season high for rushing being 67 yards in Week 1. Ball officially played in 5 games this season, totaling 172 yards on the ground, 62 yards receiving, 1 TD, and 1 fumble lost. With C.J. Anderson tearing up the ground attack in Denver now, Ball will enter camp next season with his role in the offense in question.
Justin Forsett – Ravens: When the season started the Ravens had Ray Rice No. 1 on the RB depth chart, and Justin Forsett there as insurance and to change up the pace. But all that changed when Rice was released. At first the journeyman RB split time with Bernard Pierce and Lorenzo Taliaferro, but cooler heads prevailed and the Ravens gave Forsett the load. Through 16 weeks he has put up 1,147 rushing yards (5.3 YPC), 42 receptions for 246 yards, and 8 TDs, with four 100-plus yard games. When you can get a guy off the waiver wire that finishes the fantasy season ranked 38 for RBs, you have gotten your Christmas wish early!
Adrian Peterson – Vikings: When news broke of the NFL suspending Adrian Peterson until his legal case was over, fantasy fans around the world had to be praying that it was Adrian Peterson of the Chicago Bears they were talking about. But that wasn't to be as the top-3 fantasy pick appeared in just one game this year, finishing with 75 yards rushing and 18 yards receiving. Any time you pretty much waste your first pick on a guy you end up cutting, your chances of winning decrease dramatically for that season. What's worse is that there are STILL people with Peterson on their roster despite his season-long suspension being upheld on December 12. The only good news for his fans is that he will hit 2015 with fresh legs and a chip on his shoulder after missing the majority of the 2014 season.
Antonio Brown – Steelers: It's pretty nice when you get the 9th WR off the board and he finishes with the most fantasy points for WRs; you have to be smiling from ear-to-ear right now. Brown's 168 targets lead the NFL through Week 16, as do his 122 receptions and 1,570 yards receiving. The 12 receiving TDs he's hauled in rank 3rd, but that doesn't matter because #1 at WR is #1! I doubt you'll get him 9th next season with WRs Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery likely to drop in the draft ranks, given the Bears QB issues.
Michael Floyd – Cardinals: Speaking of QB issues, you could put the Cardinals near the top of that discussion with their roster of practice squad QBs. Michael Floyd was supposed to step up this season with Larry Fitzgerald on the wrong side of 30 (31-years-old). That never happened however as Carson Palmer only made it through six games, and the combination of Drew Stanton, Logan Thomas, and Ryan Lindley being a disaster. Floyd managed just 39 receptions for 688 yards and 4 touchdowns throughout 15 games this season. Palmer enters next season at the ripe old age of 35, putting Floyd and Fitzgerald's fantasy value in question.
Odell Beckham Jr. – Giants: I personally think it is a travesty that ODB was left off the Pro Bowl roster, considering he put up 100 yard games in 6 of his last 8 games and finished the season with 79 receptions, 1,120 receiving yards and 11 TDs in just 11 games! Eli Manning turns 34 in January, but he should have a couple of good years left in him, making Beckham a sexy WR1 pick early in next year's draft.
Allen Hurns – Jaguars: When you go undrafted in the NFL, there is about a 100 percent probability you will also go undrafted in fantasy leagues. Well, if you didn't know Hurns' name prior to Week 1, you certainly did prior to Week 2 when he posted a 4-110-2 line on the Eagles in his first NFL game. Hurns finished the fantasy season ranked 38th on NFL.com for WRs, ahead of Keenan Allen, Eric Decker, Andre Johnson, and Larry Fitzgerald. Not too shabby if I do say so myself!
Keenan Allen – Chargers: When defenses drew up a game plan for stopping the Chargers passing game, it largely centered around covering Allen with their best defensive back, then bringing safety help over the top to stifle his production. While Allen was able to log 77 receptions thanks to his 122 targets, he was only able to turn that into 783 yards and 4 TDs this year. Allen was quite the disappointment this year, dropping his redraft value for the 2015 season with owners feeling burned after wasting a 3rd-round pick on him this season.
Rob Gronkowski – Patriots: We all know that TE is an all-or-nothing position in fantasy football, and Gronk was certainly on the "all" end of that statement this year. With his availability in doubt for Week 1, Gronk slipped into the 5th-round on average in fantasy drafts. To get a TE in the 5th round that leads the league at TE in targets (131), receptions (82), receiving yards (1,124), and touchdowns (12), that is fantasy gold right there! You will have to most likely burn a 1st-round pick if you want Gronkowski next year, so enjoy the return on investment you got this year while you can.
Dennis Pitta – Ravens: Pitta lasted just 3 games in 2014, suffering a dislocated right hip that resulted in season-ending hip surgery following Week 3. Pitta managed 125 yards on his 16 receptions this year, but failed to find the end zone in 2014. Taking a TE in the 11th round on average isn't "burning" a pick per se, but seeing your TE go down in Week 3 and scrambling to the waiver wire to try and pick up whatever is left at that point is like trying to defuse a bomb after it has gone off.
Antonio Gates – Chargers: Gates is a future Hall of Fame TE, so the sleeper tag seems a little weird next to his name. But at the age of 34 the body slows down and TEs usually fade away into a reserve role in the passing game. Add to that Ladarius Green lurking in the shadows, and you can see why Gates was drafted in just 69 percent of fantasy leagues this season. However, Gates apparently stole Doc Brown's time machine and traveled back in time as he turned his 92 targets into 65 receptions, 754 yards, and 12 TDs this year.
Vernon Davis – 49ers: The good things to say about the 49ers passing game this season can be limited to a few short comments, one of which is likely to be Davis' Week 1 4-44-2 line. After that first game, Davis deployed a plan of attack that I am calling "fantasy value killer." He then spread out his next 21 receptions and 192 yards over 12 games, also failing to visit the end zone again in 2014. Davis will be 31 years old when the 2015 season starts, and the 49ers either don't know how to use him, or can't use him properly with Colin Kaepernick under center.
Philadelphia Eagles defense: There is a trend going on now in which fantasy GMs opt to just stream defenses week-to-week rather than burn a mid-round pick on a defense they start for the entire season. With that in mind, it's not entirely shocking to see the Eagles drafted in a mere 5 percent of fantasy leagues. Plus, Coach Chip Kelley is far more prolific for his offense than his defense. With all that in mind, it is pretty astonishing to see the Eagles defense atop the fantasy leaderboard thanks to their 49 sacks, 11 INTs, 16 fumble recoveries, 6 defensive TDs, 4 return TDs, and 356 points allowed this season. The touchdowns and fumble recoveries is what really put them over the top, but none of that matters to fantasy owners because all we care about is the bottom line!
Seattle Seahawks defense: The Seahawks were widely considered the odds-on favorite to be the best fantasy defense this season, but that isn't what happened as the defense recorded just 33 sacks, 11 INTs, 10 recovered fumbles, 1 safety, 2 defensive TDs, and 246 points allowed. The lack of sacks and INTs hurt more than the points allowed could make up for. The theory of defensive streaming is gaining momentum, and the Seahawks this year only help prove that point given the fact that they finished in the #15 range for defenses despite being taken as the first defense off the board by a healthy margin this year.
Buffalo Bills defense: The Bills defense was supposed to take a dip in production after defensive coordinator Mike Pettine took the Browns head coaching job this year. Fast forward to Week 16 and Jim Schwartz has a defense that ranks #1 in sacks (50), tied for 3rd in INTs (19), tied for 5th in fumble recoveries (11) and 3rd in points allowed (264). Even though the Bills were drafted in 91 percent of fantasy leagues, owners didn't do so until the middle of the 15th round.
Carolina Panthers defense: The Panthers were typically the 4th defense off the board, behind the Rams and in front of the Lions. Instead of getting a top-5 fantasy defense, owners were stuck with a defense that couldn't stop a pillow fight in an elementary school classroom! The Panthers not only allowed the 7th-most points this season at 365, but they managed just 34 sacks, 12 INTs, 11 recovered fumbles, and 1 return touchdown for the season. The lack of safeties or defensive touchdowns, coupled with the massive points allowed, ranks the Panthers 27th out of 32 possible fantasy defenses this year.
Well there you have it fantasy football nuts, the 2014 fantasy recap! Hopefully all my advice and insight helped you not only make it to the fantasy playoffs, but take home the league title and secure bragging rights for the next 11 months. After all, my motto is "2nd place is just the first loser!" See you next year as the Jaguars and I help merge the NFL reality with your NFL fantasy. Merry Christmas and happy New Year to you, all my Jaguars fans around the world!