As we move from the fantasy playoffs into the real-life playoffs, the 25 Yards Later crew wanted to reflect on the fantasy season and recognize some of the players that made the season unforgettable. You can also check out an audio version of the awards where we debate and decide the winners in real-time on the podcast. One disclaimer: unless otherwise noted, most of the fantasy finishes are through Week 17 due to the dearth of fantasy championship games in Week 18 and are generally PPR. So without further ado, may we present to you the 1st Annual 25 Yards Later Fantasy Football Awards!
The backbone of the awards is our All-Fantasy team. In an effort to not simply go chalk and pick the top player at each position (although that still happened in multiple cases), we tried to take multiple factors into consideration. Obviously fantasy finish was the main criteria, but we also considered draft value, as well as spike/bust game timing. We felt that it wasn’t only important that the players finished high, but they also needed to help you—and conversely, not hurt you—in the most important moments of the year: the fantasy playoffs and the run-up to them.
QB: Josh Allen (QB1; drafted QB2)
This was arguably the toughest position to award, as there were many deserving players. With such a thin margin, Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers were somewhat quickly eliminated from contention for having seasons that, while great, didn’t quite return their high draft value. Conversely, Tom Brady, Joe Burrow, and Justin Herbert were all extreme values for their draft prices, and in Burrow’s case single-handedly won people championships with his massive performances in the fantasy playoffs.
In the end though, we decided to go with the QB1, Josh Allen. Allen’s combination of consistency (just two bad games, one of which was an obvious fade against the Patriots in the bad weather game), spike games, and playoff performance ended up pushing Allen over the edge. Even though he was drafted highly, he more than returned his draft value to earn the spot on the All-Fantasy team.
Other Nominees: Justin Herbert (QB2; drafted QB8), Tom Brady (QB3; drafted QB9), Patrick Mahomes (QB4; drafted QB1), Joe Burrow (QB5; drafted QB13), Aaron Rodgers (QB7; drafted QB5)
RB1: Jonathan Taylor (RB1; drafted RB9)
This spot is an absolute no-brainer. Taylor finished as the RB1 by 60 points. He scored at least one touchdown in 11 consecutive games, tied the league lead in total TDs, and led the league in rushing by over 500 yards.
RB2: Austin Ekeler (RB2; drafted RB8)
While the RB1 was an incredibly easy choice, the RB2 was much harder. There were several tremendous options, including several players that turned out to be major draft steals that carried fantasy players into the playoffs. (Mixon, Fournette, Conner, Harris). A real case could even be made for Derrick Henry, whose early-season dominance still left him as a top-25 RB in total points despite missing 9.5 games, finishing as the RB14 in non-PPR scoring. Although he didn’t come up for serious discussion during the episode, Joe Mixon was also a strong contender for scoring touchdowns in 9 consecutive games.
In the end, though, Ekeler’s achievements as the RB2 were too impressive to ignore. He tied Taylor with 20 touchdowns and finished 2nd in RB receptions, which are gold in PPR scoring. While we compare Henry’s 8 games to Taylor’s in the episode, where Henry scored 193 PPR to Taylor’s stretch of 208 PPR from Weeks 9-17, Ekeler’s best stretch compares favorably, as he scored 186.6 from Weeks 3-11. Ekeler was not only the RB2 on the season, but he was also the RB2 for the first half of the year (153.3 PPR in just 7 games from Weeks 1-8) and the RB2 in the second half of the year (190.6 from Weeks 9-18). Ekeler’s consistency and dominance more than earned him a spot on the All-Fantasy team.
Other Nominees: Derrick Henry (RB17, RB1 by 40 points through Week 8; drafted RB4), Joe Mixon (RB4; drafted RB13), Leonard Fournette (RB5; drafted RB31), James Conner (RB8; drafted RB35), Najee Harris (RB3; drafted RB11),
WR1: Cooper Kupp (WR1; drafted WR17)
This is another no-brainer. Kupp finished the season 2nd all-time in single-season receiving yards and catches en route to leading the league in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving TDs. His worst game of the year was 5/64/0, which is still 11+ PPR (for context, Allen Robinson was drafted in a similar range and his best game was 4/68/0). The fantasy football awards would have been invalid without Kupp.
WR2: Ja’Marr Chase (WR5; drafted WR29)
That Chase lands the second spot on our list despite a moderate but lengthy slump from Weeks 8-15 is a testament to his difference-making season. Chase got off to a blistering start to his career and was the overall WR3 through Week 7 before his 7-game slump where he logged just a 26/284/4 line en route to the WR30. Then, of course, came Weeks 16 and 17 (we’ll ignore a Burrow-less Week 18 where he played just 5 snaps). In Week 17 alone, Chase went for 11/266/3. Chase finished 4th in yards and 3rd in receiving TDs on the season, and while he did struggle for a time, the early success and two strong playoff performances were enough to earn him the second spot on this list.
WR3: Davante Adams (WR2; drafted WR1)
I almost feel like Adams was quietly the WR2 on the season. When was the last time you heard or read anything singing his praises this year as people focused on Kupp and Chase’s breakouts? But Adams still had an incredibly strong year, capped off by 30-point PPR performances in four games from Weeks 11-17, including three in the pivotal Weeks 14-17. In fact, despite Kupp and Chase’s incredible performances, it was Adams who was the overall WR1 during that critical stretch. To be honest, WR3 might even be too low for Adams. I would say that the tie-breaker between him and Chase is the draft value in Chase’s favor.
Other Nominees: Justin Jefferson (WR4; drafted WR7), Diontae Johnson (WR8; drafted WR21), Hunter Renfrow (WR11; drafted WR85), Jaylen Waddle (WR14; drafted WR44)
TE: Mark Andrews (TE1)
While admittedly it was in an extra game, Andrews finished as the overall TE1 by almost 40 PPR points. He also showed up big during the end of the season with 43 catches for 550 yards and 4 touchdowns from Weeks 14-18, averaging nearly 8/110/1 while finishing with no fewer than 6 catches and 85 yards in any game during the most pivotal stretch of the fantasy season. Travis Kelce was obviously great, including a staggering 10/191/2 line in Week 15, but was much less consistent and was obviously drafted much higher than Andrews. Special shoutout to show favorite Dalton Schultz, whose tremendous value definitely made him a contender for this award.
Other Nominees: Travis Kelce (TE2), George Kittle (TE3), Dalton Schultz (TE4)
Flex: Deebo Samuel (WR3; drafted WR35)
Deebo had a legitimate claim at one of the three WR slots, but we wanted to honor his versatility in its own special way. The multi-dimensional usage that he and runner-up Cordarrelle Patterson experienced led us to include that aspect as a criterion for our flex spot, for this year at least. Samuel thrived as both a receiver and a runner this year, finishing fifth in receiving yards while chipping in 365 rushing yards at 6.2 yards per attempt. He scored 14 touchdowns—6 receiving and 8 rushing—for more than 1700 yards from scrimmage despite missing a game. While Cordarrelle had a surprise season in his own right at a more scarce position, Samuel’s dominance couldn’t be ignored for this award.
Other Nominees: Cordarrelle Patterson (RB7; drafted RB74)
DST: Dallas Cowboys (DST1)
The Cowboys DST was incredible for fantasy purposes, but leading the league in interceptions and being in the top-half in sacks will do that for you. The Cowboys scored an incredible eight DST touchdowns this year—that’s only four fewer than the entirety of the Jacksonville Jaguars offense!
Other Nominees: New England Patriots (DST2)
K: Evan McPherson (K3)
Sometimes you go for a slight homer pick. McPherson was widely undrafted but produced strong fantasy numbers en route to the overall K3 on the season. During the critical Weeks 14-17 stretch, he was the highest-scoring kicker in fantasy.
Other Nominees: Nick Folk (K1), Justin Tucker (K2)
Touchback Player of the Year
Winner: Greg Zuerlein, Dallas Cowboys
This is an admittedly fairly goofy award with no real fantasy relevance given to the player that recorded the most touchbacks on kickoffs throughout the season. We give out a weekly version of this award on the podcast in honor of the player that had “the most kicks that made his opponent start their next drive 25 yards later.” The race came down to two Gregs to end the year, with Zuerlein leading Vikings kicker Greg Joseph by two entering Week 18. In the end, Zuerlein extended his lead by two to hold off Joseph and record 80 touchbacks on the year.
Waiver Wire Pickup of the Year
Winner: Cordarrelle Patterson
After just missing out on the All-Fantasy team, Patterson gets to pick up some hardware as the Waiver Wire Pickup of the Year. An afterthought when the season started, Patterson finished Week 14 as the RB7 on the season. Through five weeks, Patterson was the overall RB3. Although he faded down the stretch and was a non-factor in the fantasy playoffs, he was able to maintain his RB7 standing for the year.
Other Nominees: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Dalton Schultz, Hunter Renfrow
Championship Game MVP
Winner: Ja’Marr Chase
I’m convinced that Allijah—our resident Bengals fan— suggested this category so he could give Ja’Marr Chase another award. In our league of record, Chase had almost as many points by himself (65.6) as the other two nominees—Amon-Ra St. Brown and Rashaad Penny—combined (67.9).
Other Nominees: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Rashaad Penny
We decided to give a slightly more off-beat award in honor of players that made a major impact on our personal fantasy teams.
Allijah: If you asked me to choose one player that I believed in during the preseason, my answer never wavered: Diontae Johnson. So I made it a point to draft Johnson everywhere I could and was lucky enough to get him in all three of my leagues. Boy oh boy, I’m so glad that I did! You wanna talk about consistency? His lowest PPR score on the season was 9.8 fantasy points and he only scored less than 15 points twice! He essentially never had a bad week. Wanna talk about showing up when it counts? He scored 15+ points in 6 of his last 7 games, including the semi-final and championship weeks. Not only did he come in clutch for everybody that had him on their team, he particularly performed when I needed him the most. In Week 17 going into Monday night football, the final day of the fantasy football season, I still had a shot in two leagues, and it all came down to Diontae. I was down 6 in our Sports Obsessive dynasty league championship game and I was down 14 in the battle of the Motika brothers in our league of record to determine the 3rd-place finisher (and equally importantly, who would win their money back). With my entire fantasy season resting on his shoulders, Diontae Johnson carried me to victory in both matchups. If that doesn’t define a fantasy MVP I don’t know what does.
Nick’s winner: Tee Higgins. This was kind of a tough choice for me. I wanted to give the award to someone that I had on multiple teams, but I’ll often try to diversify my rosters, so I didn’t have too much overlap from the top players. I had Cooper Kupp and Jonathan Taylor on one roster each, and while they were both pivotal to my success (especially Kupp, who single-handedly elevated an otherwise average roster to 10 wins and a 4-seed), I felt like I wanted to look elsewhere for this award. I chose Higgins because I had him rostered on both of my teams that made it to the championship game. Higgins was the WR12 in average points among players with 8+ games—including the WR4 since Week 12—more than returning on his WR27 ADP. He was also pivotal to a DFS lineup that won $135 on less than $7 in buy-ins, which was definitely an added bonus.
Winner: Cooper Kupp
And now for our top award, Fantasy MVP! What looked like it was going to be a tight race ended up being another runaway award for Kupp. In many formats, Kupp was the highest-scoring player at any position in all of fantasy on the year. Additionally, a staggering 48% of fantasy championship participants in ESPN leagues rostered Kupp, 10 percentage points above any other player (Mark Andrews finished 2nd at 38%).
Runner-up: Jonathan Taylor
That’s our list! Who would you have given a fantasy football award to? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter, and we will see you 25 Yards Later!