Todd Gurley ended the fantasy football season by single-handedly delivering a championship title to almost anyone who had him on their roster.
In Week 15, the first game of the playoffs for many fantasy leagues, he carried the ball 21 times for 152 yards and scored three touchdowns on the ground in addition to catching all three of his targets for 28 yards and another score. In Week 16 he was great again, compiling 276 total yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns.
His two-week total of 94.6 fantasy points in point-per-reception, or PPR, leagues during that stretch was the best postseason performance in NFL history.
Not only was Gurley clutch in the playoffs, he ended up being the highest-point-producing player who was drafted in 12-team fantasy leagues this season, giving owners a great return on a player selected in the middle of Round 2 on average (2.06 ADP).
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, a high-first-round pick (1.02 ADP), was the second-highest-scoring player overall, with Melvin Gordon (1.09 ADP), LeSean McCoy (1.07 ADP) and Christian McCaffrey (2.10) finishing in the top 10 among running backs, perhaps restoring faith in a position that has lost favor among fantasy owners over the years.
There was late-round value to be had, too, with New Orleans rookie Alvin Kamara, on average a 12th-round pick, finishing the fantasy season with 1,426 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns, producing the third-most points among rushers this season.
You may remember The Washington Post’s own Mike Hume advocated the RB-Pa-Looza strategy during an episode of The Fantasy Football Beat, which entailed drafting running backs early and often. Looks like he was right: It was difficult to find suitable running back replacements in 12-team leagues after the draft. Just four undrafted rushers — Jerick McKinnon (Minnesota Vikings), Javorius “Buck” Allen (Baltimore Ravens), Alex Collins (Baltimore Ravens) and Chris Thompson (Washington Redskins) — produced more fantasy points than the average starter (24th RB) would have in 2017.
Does this signal the end for the Zero RB strategy, which advocated steering clear of running backs until the fifth or sixth round of a draft? We will have to wait and see. With injuries plaguing so many of the league’s top pass-catchers this season (see: Beckham, Odell), it could be an isolated occurrence.We do know it was advantageous to draft a quarterback in the later rounds — with the three best values for QBs all coming further down the draft board.
The highest-drafted quarterback, Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, broke his collarbone in Week 6 and played just one more game (Week 14) before being shut down for the season after his team was eliminated from playoff contention. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was the second-highest-drafted quarterback this season and finished at No. 5 at the position. But the top three passers in terms of fantasy production were all late-round picks, if they were drafted at all.
Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks finished No. 1 after accounting for 35 of the team’s 36 touchdowns in 2017. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith went undrafted but finished as the second-best passer in fantasy football. Cam Newton, a late pick in the eighth round, threw for 3,122 yards and 21 touchdowns while adding another six touchdowns on the ground, giving him the third-most fantasy points among quarterbacks this season. Aside from Brady and Wilson, no other passer in the top 10 was drafted earlier than the eighth round.
That doesn’t mean there were serviceable quarterbacks available after the draft was concluded though: aside from Smith, only Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams produced enough fantasy points to be considered a fringe starter in 12-team leagues.
Antonio Brown might have given Gurley some competition for the fantasy league’s MVP award, but he suffered a calf injury in Week 15 against the New England Patriots and was unavailable during championship week. When he was healthy, however, he was a wrecking ball, catching 101 passes for a league-high 1,533 yards and nine touchdowns. DeAndre Hopkins, a third-round pick, caught 96 passes for 1,378 yards and a league-leading 13 touchdowns, tying Brown for most PPR fantasy points produced in 2017.
There were a few wideouts to be had on the waiver wire, again lending credence to Hume’s theory to devote more bench slots to running backs than wide receivers. Devin Funchess and Nelson Agholor were two of the best options, each outproducing a fringe starter in 12-team leagues by 20 or more fantasy points by the end of the season. Kenny Stills, Jermaine Kearse, Robert Woods and JuJu Smith-Schuster were also capable fantasy starters despite going undrafted.
The tight end position wasn’t as fertile. No undrafted players at the position provided more valuable than a fringe starter would, and the two highest-drafted players, Travis Kelce (4.01 ADP) and Rob Gronkowski (2.07), finished No. 1 and No. 2 for fantasy production. The two tight ends drafted highest after them, Greg Olsen (5.04) and Jordan Reed (5.07), were hampered by injuries, leaving the top 10 looking like a collection of late-round players rising to the occasion. There was also a significant drop after the top three tight ends, particularly considering Gronkowski (suspension) and Zach Ertz (injury) missed games this season.
The biggest disappointment of the season had to be David Johnson, the top overall pick in the draft (on average) who played just one game for the Arizona Cardinals before a dislocated left wrist ruled him out for the season. However, injuries are tough to predict, so perhaps we can give him a pass when looking for the least valuable player for the season. After all, it’s far more torturous to have a player let you down repeatedly after tantalizing you with his potential in the preseason.
Here are 10 players selected in the top half of drafts who played at least 13 games yet produced less than a fringe starter at their respective position. As you can see, wide receivers account for six of the 10 underwhelming players on this list, perhaps illustrating early picks are better spent elsewhere in 2018.
|Player, position (ADP)||PPR fantasy points in 2017||Points produced below that of a fringe starter at same position|
|Martavis Bryant, WR (4.09)||120||-42|
|Matt Ryan, QB (5.11)||212||-34|
|Kelvin Benjamin, WR (4.06)||131||-31|
|Amari Cooper, WR (2.07)||138||-24|
|Jordy Nelson, WR (1.10)||139||-23|
|Ameer Abdullah, RB (5.09)||115||-20|
|Sammy Watkins, WR (6.07)||146||-16|
|Jamison Crowder, WR (5.12)||155||-7|
|Joe Mixon, RB (4.05)||133||-2|
|Jay Ajayi, RB (2.01)||135||0|
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