Before we close the books on another exciting/frustrating/awesome/unpredictable (circle one) fantasy season, we must take a quick stroll back through 2011 to examine the players we rooted for and against and – with as much objectivity as we can muster – give credit where credit is due.
As always, our annual accolades (and condemnations) have but a few important criteria:
1. Consistency on a weekly basis is next to godliness.
2. Production during the fantasy playoffs – for our purposes, NFL Weeks 14 through 16 – is given extra weight. Players who let their owners down at the worst possible time earn our eternal scorn. (Hear that, Eli?)
3. For the most part, Week 17 is dead to us. (Sorry, Matt Flynn.)
Without further ado, I am pleased to present the 2011 Biro’s Heroes & Zeros Awards:
Most Valuable Player: Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots. I made my case for Gronkowski in a column three weeks ago, in which I examined the disproportionate advantage he gave his owners at the tight end position on a weekly basis. Though Aaron Rodgers might seem the obvious choice, Drew Brees was nearly his equal. LeSean McCoy was outstanding; but in any given week, other backs out-produced him. Runner-up: Rodgers, QB, Packers.
“Peerless Price Memorial” Bust of the Year: Chris Johnson, RB, Titans. A top three selection that plays every game yet scores just four stinking touchdowns is the definition of a bust. “CJ1K” started off slow and finished nearly as poorly. Runner-up: Andre Johnson, WR, Texans.
Rookie of the Year: Cam Newton, QB, Panthers. Everyone knows rookie quarterbacks make awful fantasy passers, especially when they’re drafted by the worst team in the league. Apparently nobody informed Newton. Runner-up: A.J. Green, WR, Bengals.
Surprise of the Year: Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks. Three years removed from fantasy respectability in Buffalo, all Lynch did was score in 11 consecutive weeks on his way to a Top 5 fantasy ranking. Runner-up: Newton.
Comeback Player of the Year: Steve Smith, WR, Panthers. He played 14 games in 2010 and barely ranked among the top 70 fantasy receivers. Enter a rookie passer, and Smith once again resides among the elite. Go figure. Runner-up: Reggie Bush, RB, Dolphins.
Mr. Reliable: LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles. From Week 1 to Week 15, Shady found the end zone at least once every week but one. Until he stumbled in the fantasy postseason, no player was more consistently productive than the multi-talented McCoy. Runner-up: Brees.
Best Waiver Wire Acquisition: Victor Cruz, WR, Giants. Last season, owners plucked Brandon Lloyd off waivers and cashed in on the top wideout in Fantasyland. This year, Cruz was the game-breaking receiver everyone wished they had grabbed. Runner-up: Laurent Robinson, WR, Cowboys.
Mr. Big Play: Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers. Among Nelson’s 15 TD receptions were scoring strikes of 36, 37, 40, 50, 55, 58, 84 and 93 yards. Runner-up: Cruz.
Most Devastating Injury Loss: Peyton Manning, QB, Colts. You know your absence is conspicuous when you take an entire franchise down with you. Runner-up: Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs.
Steal of the Draft: Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions. Available in the 8th or 9th round of most 10-team drafts, Stafford delivered elite production from start to finish. You’ll pay dearly for him in next season’s draft. Runner-up: Gronkowski.
Most Overrated: Shonn Greene, RB, Jets. On a team replete with underachievers (see Mark Sanchez, Santonio Holmes), Greene is the ultimate imposter. It’s time to put to rest the notion that he will ever be a workhorse back. Runner-up: Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys.
“Thomas Jones Memorial” Most Underrated: Marshawn Lynch. Even after weeks of consistent production, his owners routinely questioned whether or not he was start-worthy. Runner-up: Eli Manning, QB, Giants.
Made Chicken Salad from Chicken Scratch: Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars. With virtually no talent to support him in the Jacksonville offense, the 5’-8” bowling ball led the league in rushing and reclaimed his status among the game’s elite. Runner-up: Michael Bush, RB, Raiders.
Biggest Postseason Disappointment: Eli Manning. If his 250-yard, zero-TD, three-interception performance didn’t knock you out in Week 15, his mediocre 225-yard, one-TD, one-interception outing the following weekend surely did. Runner-up: LeGarrette Blount, RB, Buccaneers.
Too Little Too Late: Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers. His end-of-season statistics look respectable; but through Week 8, Rivers had just seven passing TDs and 11 interceptions. By the time he started clicking, many of the owners who were counting on Rivers were out of contention. Runner-up: DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers.
Most Spectacular Bench Performance: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers. He headed into his Week 5 matchup with an injured foot and just three passing scores over his first four games. Big Ben then proceeded to amass 228 yards and five touchdowns against the Titans. Runner-up: Plaxico Burress, WR, Giants (25 receiving yards, 3 TDs vs. Chargers, Week 7).
Lived Up to the Hype: Jimmy Graham, TE, Saints. My pick for “Most Likely to Succeed in 2011,” Graham was everyone’s favorite sleeper tight end coming into the season. With a little help from a guy named Brees, Graham was nearly unstoppable. Runner-up: A.J. Green.
Most Marginalized by Pathetic QB Play: Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts. The once-elite wideout was barely startable with Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky under center. Runner-up: Austin Collie, WR, Colts.
“Frisman Jackson Memorial” Irrational Exuberance Award: Devery Henderson, WR, Saints. Star-crossed fantasy owners watched Henderson post 100-plus yards and a touchdown in each of the first two games. Shouldn’t they have known, after all these years, that Henderson is the most inconsistent wideout on the planet? Runner-up: Ryan Torain, RB, Redskins.
Worst Sophomore Jinx: Mike Williams, WR, Buccaneers. After a sensational rookie campaign that saw him flirt with elite status, Williams quickly became fantasy irrelevant in the Bucs’ moribund offense. Runner-up: Sam Bradford, QB, Rams.
Team Bust of the Year: Indianapolis Colts. For the first time in the modern era, you would never regret not having a Colt on your roster. What a mess. Runner-up: Cleveland Browns.
“Plaxico Burress Memorial” Bonehead of the Year: Rex Ryan, HC, Jets. Confidence is one thing. Continuing to predict Super Bowl glory as your team implodes around you is just plain asinine. Eat some humble pie over the offseason, coach. Runner-up: Rob Ryan, DC, Cowboys.
Most Likely to Succeed in 2012: DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys. He’ll enter the season as the unquestioned workhorse of the Dallas offense. Provided he can stay healthy, Murray should have an outstanding sophomore season. Runner-up: Robert Griffin III, QB, Sic ‘em, Bears!
As always, I’m open to your feedback on these awards. Feel free to email me, and be sure to begin your message with “You’re an idiot because…”
Next week: The Perfect Draft: Final Cut, wraps up the season.