Monday, January 9, 2017

11th Annual Biro’s Heroes & Zeros Awards

Actors have the Oscars. Broadway performers have the Tonys. Fantasy football players are stuck with Biro’s Heroes & Zeros.

Hey, nobody said life is fair.

Once again, before we close the books on another exhilarating / frustrating / victorious / humiliating (circle one) fantasy season, we must take a quick stroll back through 2016 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 – NFL Weeks 14 through 16 – is given extra weight. Players who let their owners down at the worst possible time earn our eternal scorn. (We’re looking at you, Big Ben.)
  3. Week 17 is dead to us. (Lucky for you, Zeke.)
Without further ado, I am pleased to present the 11th Annual Biro’s Heroes & Zeros Awards:

Most Valuable Player: David Johnson, RB, Cardinals. See Criteria No. 1. Johnson was the model of consistency, scoring and/or amassing more than 100 combined yards in every game (until his Week 17 injury). He played up to his first-round billing in spades. Runner-up: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Cowboys.

“Peerless Price Memorial” Bust of the Year: Todd Gurley, RB, Rams. Last year’s undisputed Rookie of the Year wilted under the spotlight in La La Land. Gurley was inexplicably awful in most contests, but his owners didn’t dare bench him early on since he was bound to catch fire at any moment, right? Runner-up: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans.   

Rookie of the Year:  Ezekiel Elliott. This one wasn’t even close. Like Johnson, Elliott scored and/or totaled more than 100 scrimmage yards in each of his first 16 games. Let’s just hope he doesn’t “pull a Gurley” next season. Runner-up: Michael Thomas, WR, Saints. 

Comeback Player of the Year: Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers. All he did was return from a torn ACL that cost him the 2015 season to lead the league in receiving TDs and fantasy points among wideouts. Runner-up: DeMarco Murray, RB, Titans.

Surprise of the Year: Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys. Though he wasn’t always a fantasy stud, Prescott personifies this category. More than 3,600 passing yards, 29 total TDs and only 4 INTs is pretty ridiculous for a young quarterback, much less a rookie. Runner-up: Davante Adams, WR, Packers.

Best Waiver Wire Acquisition: Jordan Howard, RB, Bears. When Jeremy Langford went down to injury in Week 3, Howard stepped in and became Chicago’s undisputed workhorse, finishing the season in the Top 10 fantasy RB ranks. Runner-up: Adams.

Mr. Big Play: Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs. Maybe it just seemed like he scored every time he touched the ball; but whether it was as a receiver, runner or returner, Hill was a game-changer. Runner-up: Brandin Cooks, WR, Saints.

Most Devastating Injury Loss: Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots. You could argue that losing Adrian Peterson was worse, but he failed to produce even before his injury. Gronk was his usual beast self when healthy, but that wasn’t nearly long enough. Runner-up: A.J. Green, WR, Bengals.

Steal of the Draft: Matt Ryan, RB, Falcons. Available as late as the 13th round in many leagues, Ryan turned in the best season of his career and was even stellar while Julio Jones was sidelined. Runner-up: Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers.

Mr. Reliable: Jordy Nelson. Antonio Brown has set the standard for consistency over the last four seasons, but even he played second fiddle to Jordy this year. Aside from a 9-yard disaster in Week 7, Nelson delivered week in and week out. Runner-up: Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons.

“Thomas Jones Memorial” Most Underrated: LeGarrette Blount, RB, Patriots. All he did was score touchdowns. He even racked up big yards as an occasional bonus. Runner-up: Frank Gore, RB, Colts.

Most Overrated: Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars. Universally projected to build on his spectacular 2015 campaign, A-Rob was virtually non-existent most weekends. Blake Bortles didn’t do him any favors. Runner-up: Cam Newton, QB, Panthers.

Made Chicken Salad from Chicken Scratch: LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills. Despite the dearth of talent around him, and some pretty pathetic quarterback play most of the season, Shady turned in another elite season. Runner-up: Jordan Howard.

Biggest Postseason Disappointment: Drew Brees, QB, Saints. If you survived Brees’ Week 13 meltdown, he likely knocked you out of the playoffs with his 257-yard, zero-TD, three-INT outing in Week 14. Runner-up: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers.

“Frisman Jackson Memorial” Irrational Exuberance Award: Kenneth Farrow, RB, Chargers. Countless fantasy owners jumped on Farrow’s bandwagon after Melvin Gordon’s injury. The rookie then proceeded to stink up the joint in Weeks 15 and 16 when Gordon’s owners needed him the most. Runner-up: Colin Kaepernick, QB, 49ers.

Team Bust of the Year (a.k.a. They Are Who We Thought They Were): 49ers. There isn’t a player on this team that you regret not drafting. Runner-up: Browns.

Most Likely to Succeed in 2017: Jamison Crowder, WR, Redskins. Last year’s pick, David Johnson, held up his end of the bargain. We’ll see if Crowder can build on his impressive sophomore campaign, especially with both DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon likely moving on in free agency. Runner-up: Tyreek Hill.

As always, I’m open to your feedback on these awards.  Feel free to comment below, and be sure to begin your message with “You’re an idiot because…”

That does it for this season. Thanks, once again, for following my column. Check in on the Fantasy Fools blog for offseason developments and we’ll be back in August to prep for another title run!

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Perfect Draft: The Grand Do-Over

What if your league-mates offered you a second chance at your draft?

Would you roll the dice on rookie Ezekiel Elliott instead of making a “safe” pick like Todd Gurley or, heaven forbid, Adrian Peterson?

Would you let Cam Newton slide on by and grab Matt Ryan instead?

Maybe pass up Rob Gronkowski for, let’s see, any other tight end?

Sadly, there are no do-overs in fantasy football. At least not in the season-long version that God intended for us to play. But there sure is plenty of second-guessing. Yes, friends, it’s time to adjust our rear-view mirrors as we explore what could have been with my oft-imitated, always-controversial, yet magically delicious Perfect Draft: The Final Judgment.

As always, we start with a few key parameters. We will draft from the middle (fifth) position in a 10-team non-keeper league using a standard scoring system that starts one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, and one tight end, flex, kicker and team defense. We disregard Week 17, since no league should be vying for a championship then. And, as always, our goal is nothing short of total domination and the abject humiliation of our opponents.

Now, with the fifth pick of the 2016 Perfect Draft, we should have selected…

Round 1: David Johnson, RB, Cardinals. The 2016 Fantasy MVP lived up to the hype he generated late in his rookie season. Through 16 games, Johnson racked up 2,074 combined yards and a whopping 20 TDs. That’s what you dream of from your first-round pick. Sunday’s injury was a rotten way to close out his glorious season.

Round 2: Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers. The unchallenged Comeback Player of the Year immediately resumed his uncanny rapport with Aaron Rodgers, scoring in 11 of his first 15 games and racking up 91 receptions for 1,191 yards. Mike Evans was slightly better for much of the season, but he petered out down the stretch.

Round 3: T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts. Andrew Luck’s favorite receiver finally ascended to elite status. Aaron Rodgers and LeSean McCoy offer more third-round value, but passing up Hilton would leave us unnecessarily weak in our WR corps.

Round 4: DeMarco Murray, RB, Titans. We could afford to pass up McCoy because we’re grabbing Murray here. After a disastrous detour through Philly, Murray nearly replicated his 2014 MVP status during his rebound season in Tennessee.

Round 5: Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs. He overtook Greg Olsen for supremacy at his position with a sensational performance in Week 16. We could wait an extra round to take him, but we’ve got other plans for that pick.

Round 6: Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers. Until he went down in Week 14, Gordon was in the Fantasy MVP conversation. His injury was devastating to many of his owners, but they sure loved him when he was healthy.

Round 7: Tom Brady, QB, Patriots. Draft him and stash him till Week 5, then hold on for another stellar ride.

Round 8: Michael Crabtree, WR, Raiders. Marvin Jones teased us in the first half of the season, but Crabtree, while mixing in a few stinkers along the way, contributed more consistently throughout the season.

Round 9: LeGarrette Blount, RB, Patriots. His worst game of the season was a 54-rushing-yard effort in Week 4 and he failed to reach the end zone in only three games. That’s as consistent as it gets.

Round 10: Jay Ajayi, RB, Dolphins. He’ll be a nice flex play, especially those three weeks when he eclipsed 200 rushing yards. If nothing else, we’ll keep him off our opponents’ rosters.

Round 11: Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons. Available as late as the 13th round, Matty Ice had the best season of his career and even came up big when Julio Jones was injured.

Round 12: Chiefs defense/special teams. We could wait another round to take the top D/ST in the land, but why tempt fate?

Round 13: Michael Thomas, WR, Saints. Zeke Elliott ran away with Fantasy Rookie of the Year honors, but Thomas set the standard among first-year wideouts. He nearly equaled the production of his more-heralded counterpart, Brandin Cooks, while becoming a trusted target of the prolific Drew Brees.

Round 14: Jordan Howard, RB, Bears. Here’s another rookie who can come to our rescue once Melvin Gordon goes down.

Round 15: Davante Adams, WR, Packers. Adams may drive us crazy with his inconsistency, but Rodgers’ second-most-reliable wideout is welcome on this team. He went undrafted in most leagues, but rose above Randall Cobb in Green Bay’s pecking order.

Round 16: Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs. Want to watch question marks appear above your competitors’ heads? Take Hill here and enjoy. The challenge will be knowing when to start the multi-faceted playmaker.

Round 17: Matt Bryant, K, Falcons. There are several quality choices here, but Bryant handled mop-up duty for the highest-scoring offense in the league. That’s the way to pick your kicker.

The good news is you didn’t need to draft this well to win a title. But it sure would have been fun.

Next week, we close out the 2016-17 season with our annual Biro’s Heroes & Zeros Awards.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Week 17 Heroes & Zeros

This was a great week to play…

Matt Ryan, Falcons – Torched the Saints for 331 yards and 4 TDs without a turnover.
Aaron Rodgers, Packers – Was masterful again, with 300 yards and 4 TDs, plus 42 rushing yards, with zero mistakes.
Tom Brady, Patriots – Passed for 276 yards and 3 TDs, without a blemish.

Rex Burkhead, Bengals – Rumbled for 119 yards and 2 TDs, plus 2 receptions for 25 yards.
Jerick McKinnon, Vikings – Ran for 89 yards and a TD and caught 3 passes for 21 yards and another TD.
Charcandrick West, Chiefs – Rushed for 58 yards and caught 5 passes for 58 yards and 2 TDs.
Devonta Freeman, Falcons – Caught 5 passes for 81 yards and ran 96 yards with a TD.
Devontae Booker, Broncos – Rushed for 57 yards and a TD and caught 2 passes for 52 yards and a second TD.
Shaun Draughn, 49ers – Scored twice while rushing for 41 yards and caught 4 passes for 68 yards.
DeAngelo Williams, Steelers – The league’s best backup ran for 67 yards, caught 3 passes for 27 yards and scored both ways.
Mark Ingram, Saints – Rushed for 103 yards and 1 TD plus 6 receptions for 29 yards.

Michael Thomas, Saints – Took 10 passes and created 156 yards and a TD out of them.
Julian Edelman, Patriots – Reeled in 8 passes for 151 yards and a TD.
Rishard Matthews, Titans – Caught 9 passes for 114 yards and a score.
Davante Adams, Packers – Scored twice on 6 catches for 31 yards.

Zach Ertz, Eagles – Reeled in 13 passes for 139 yards and 2 TDs.
Kyle Rudolph, Vikings – Pulled down 11 passes for 117 yards and a score.

Vikings – Amassed 2 sacks, 2 INTs, 3 fumbles and a TD on one of those fumbles, while holding the Bears to 10 points.
Buccaneers – Collected 3 sacks, 3 INTs and a TD on an INT return and kept the Panthers to 16 points.
Giants – Had 4 sacks, 2 INTs, 1 fumble and a TD on a fumble return and held Washington to 10 points.  `
Cardinals – Generated 7 sacks, 2 INTs and a fumble and scored on one of the interceptions while holding the Rams to 6 points.

This was a great week to play against…

Dak Prescott, Cowboys – No surprise, had just 37 passing and 9 rushing yards before taking an early shower.
Eli Manning, Giants – Passed for 180 yards without a score or turnover.
Joe Flacco, Ravens – Passed for 267 yards without a TD, but included an INT.
Matt Barkley, Bears – Just 125 passing yards with a fumble and 2 INTs, though he caught a 2-yard TD pass.
Cam Newton, Panthers – Passed for 237 yards and a TD, but ruined it with 3 INTs.

Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys – Was active, but finished with a goose egg on the day.
LeSean McCoy, Bills – Ran for just 10 yards and caught a 6-yarder before leaving with an injury.
DeMarco Murray, Titans – Finished with 21 rushing and lost 2 yards on his only reception.
Latavius Murray, Raiders – Ran for 11 yards and caught a 14-yarder.
Terrance West, Ravens – Totaled just 35 combined yards.
Darren Sproles, Eagles – Limited to 32 rushing yards.
Alfred Blue, Texans – Just 28 rushing and 12 receiving yards.
Rob Kelley, Redskins – Ran for 33 yards.
David Johnson, Cardinals – Exited with a nasty leg injury after running for 6 yards and catching 3 passes for 38 yards.

Dez Bryant, Cowboys – Also active, but not in the box score.
Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos – Hurt his foot before he caught a pass.
Adam Thielen, Vikings – Last week’s hero caught a 7-yard pass.
Alshon Jeffery, Bears – Caught a 10-yarder.
Jamison Crowder, Redskins – His 2 receptions produced 16 yards.
Tavon Austin, Rams – Got 18 yards on 2 catches and lost a fumble.
Brandin Cooks, Saints – Went 19 yards with 3 receptions.
Sammy Watkins, Bills – Just 31 yards on 4 balls.
Steve Smith, Ravens – Went out with a whimper after all, with just 3 catches for 34 yards.
Mike Wallace, Ravens – He had 33 yards on 4 catches.
DeSean Jackson, Redskins – Caught 2 passes for 34 yards.

Travis Kelce, Chiefs – Caught an 8-yarder.
Jason Witten, Cowboys – Finished with a 10-yarder.
Greg Olsen, Panthers – Just 22 yards on 3 catches.

Sebastian Janikowski, Raiders – Shut out by the Broncos.

Sunday morning observations -- Week 17

Happy New Year, Fools! I hope each of you made it through 2016, and NYE, safely and that you're about to settle in for a very busy afternoon of NFL football with little, if anything, riding on the outcomes.

For me, I'll be battling for 5% of the pot in both of my leagues, as we hold our "Free for All Bowl," where the top overall scorer for the day wins a little financial consolation prize. It's basically a way for us to stretch the fantasy season out one more week without extending our championship game to Week 17, which is nuts.

Why is it nuts, you ask? Well, here are just some of the players who won't be competing at all today either due to injury or because their teams are playing meaningless games (versus the ones who will make token appearances and/or will just try to make it through their games unscathed): Ben Roethlisberger, Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota, Tyrod Taylor, Le'Veon Bell, Carlos Hyde, Melvin Gordon, Theo Riddick (just placed on IR), Lamar Miller, Jeremy Hill, Matt Forte, Chris Ivory, Adrian Peterson, Ryan Mathews, Antonio Brown, Brandon Marshall, A.J. Green (IR), Stefon Diggs, Taylor Gabriel, Jordan Matthews, Malcolm Mitchell, Donte Moncrief, Allen Hurns, Danny Amendola, Kendall Wright, Tyler Eifert, Ladrius Green, Cameron Brate.

Others who will likely play only a token amount of time or who are game-time decisions: Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Spencer Ware, Dez Bryant and Kenny Britt. The Giants have nothing to play for either, so don't be surprised if Eli, Odell and others hit the showers early.

It will be interesting to see just how much playing time Tony Romo gets once Dak jogs off the field this afternoon. Early betting is not much, and that Mark Sanchez will receive the bulk of the snaps. Don't count on a lot from any Cowboy player, though I wouldn't be surprised if the starters log a TD or two before hitting the showers. 50 yards and a TD sounds about right for Zeke Elliott in a quarter or more of play...

Trevor Siemian may only get a half's work of play, with Paxton Lynch taking over for the rest of the way.

There's good news if you're relying on any Patriots players, especially Tom Brady. They still have the first seed on the line, so expect big things from them against the Dolphins today. I think Jarvis Landry could have a nice outing as well, at home, with playoff seeding also on the line and Jay Ajayi dealing with a sore shoulder.

Some reports are suggesting DeAngelo Williams is the Steelers back to start today, while others point to Fitzgerald Touissant. They obviously have a tasty matchup with the Browns, but it appears the two backs will split the workload in some fashion. Either could come up big, or small. Sorry...that's why you shouldn't have a lot at stake in Week 17!

Now that we know about Doug Martin's suspension, and with Charles Sims placed on IR, Jacquizz Rodgers projects to have a busy day against the Saints. He's a solid Week 17 prospect, if you need a fill-in.

And you have to love tonight's game between the Packers and Lions, with a division crown on the line for both. If you've got 'em, start 'em!

That's it for now. Will turn next to Twitter for the final inactives report of the 2016 regular season. Enjoy the games, Fools! Tomorrow's column will feature the Perfect Draft: Final Edition. Always a crowd-pleaser...