It’s always a bit of a let-down to realize just how quickly the NFL season passes. Months and months of buildup are followed by a short-lived whirlwind of actual football. The calendar has turned to a New Year, your favorite team’s playoff dreams are being dashed left and right, and the fantasy playoffs are a fading memory. This year we thought we’d go ahead and take a hard look at our annual predictions series. We’ll see who was very right, who was very wrong, and try to pick a true winner for each category. Here are the categories we tackled:
- Fantasy MVP
- Fantasy Rookie of the Year
- Sleeper Rookie of the Year (outside our top 24)
- Bust of the Year
- Fantasy Sleeper
- Best Dynasty Buy
- Best Dynasty Sell
- Fantasy Comeback Player of the Year
We’ll finish up our retrospective by taking a look at our picks for the Fantasy MVP.
Todd Gurley, RB LAR
I really didn’t want to choose Gurley because it’s easy and simply feels way too safe. However, I really don’t see another option. You can make a case for players like Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson, Antonio Brown or Odell Beckham, Jr., but I really think the Rams will be even better this season and the touchdown potential for Gurley is ridiculous. If I was to really go out on a limb for this category, I’d actually choose Rob Gronkowski, who could make a huge difference this year on a team lacking weapons and playing a position where the point differential between the top and the second tier could be extreme – Ken Kelly
I bet Ken is awfully happy he didn’t go out on that limb and pick Gronk for this category. Gurley was a great choice, and had a fantastic follow-up to his 2017 fantasy MVP season. He’s a player who just does everything and does it all really well. He’s also in one of the NFL’s most dynamic offenses, so it’s easy to see why Ken made this choice. It’s hard to pick a guy to go back to back, and Gurley nearly pulled it off.
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Christian McCaffrey, RB CAR
After watching ‘Pearl Campbell’ in the preseason, it’s quite apparent his already ample role is expanding to full bell cow, and he is simply going to be electric with it. A legitimate candidate for 100 catches who does not appear to be in anything resembling a timeshare and is the best bet to be the top overall scorer outside of the obvious consensus top four running backs and top three wide receivers. – TJ Calkins
Am I just trying to be contrary? Yes. Yes, I am. But it’s not just because I’m difficult by nature. The fantasy MVP is often someone we get outside the first round because the only thing better than a first-round pick performing to expectation, is your second or third round pick outperforming others teams’ first-round picks. The fantasy MVP is someone who can win your league for you. Based on his potential to see a wide receiver-like target share and increase his rushing volume, McCaffrey has the potential to be that unseen value who lifts you to a championship. – Peter Howard
TJ and Peter really nailed this pick. CMC had a solid 2017, and followed that up with a monster 2018. 1100-7 rushing along with 107-867-6 receiving. Yowza. I’ll admit that I didn’t see that kind of production in the Carolina offense, but I was very, very wrong. Peter also makes a great point here that the MVP is a player who can win your league for you, and CMC put up 84 points in weeks 14-16. A fantastic season for the dynamic, do-it-all back.
Rob Gronkowski, TE NE
Rob Gronkowski is going to feast this year as long as he stays healthy. Brandin Cooks was traded, Julian Edelman is suspended for the first four games and Jordan Matthews and Eric Decker are no longer with the team. Gronkowski will likely get more attention from defenses this season, but he also should see more targets to go along with that. Sure, players like Todd Gurley, David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell and Ezekiel Elliott will probably put up more fantasy points this year, but Gronkowski’s value extends beyond just the sheer number of points he will put up as he provides such a weekly advantage every time he plays. Not only does he offer such a positional advantage each week, he gives his owners the ability to not worry about streaming or playing matchups and use an extra roster spot or two on someone else. – Kyle Holden
The “as long as he stays healthy” part is what may have bitten Kyle with this pick. Gronk was on and off the field, and often seemed to be out there and not 100%. Kyle correctly points out that much of Gronk’s value is tied up in his positional advantage. Well, Gronk’s advantage disappeared in 2018, where he finished as the TE10 after week 16. That’s not bad at all, considering the wasteland of tight end, but it is not MVP caliber.
David Johnson, RB ARI
DJ is my pick for fantasy MVP in 2018 because of the combination of his receiving ability and the fact he is the de facto WR2 on the Cardinals. Johnson has said multiple times his goal is to join Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk in the 1,000-yard rushing/1,000-yard receiving club and this is definitely a year it is possible for him to hit that because of the lack of proven receivers behind future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald. – Matt Price
I don’t know if people forget how much of an elite talent this man is or how much of a focal point he is for the Cardinals but he’s everything Le’Veon Bell is without the competition for targets. Outside of Larry Fitzgerald, there isn’t anyone who demands the ball in the desert. Also, Johnson is returning from a wrist injury (not a leg or knee), so he will be “all systems go” from week one. I’m expecting truly elite numbers with Sam Bradford hitting him often out of the backfield. He’s truly matchup-proof because of his skills in the passing game. – Eric Olinger
People tend to forget how good players are when they’re injured. Todd Gurley was everyone’s fantasy darling last season, totaling 383.3 PPR fantasy points. In his last healthy season, DJ scored 407.8 PPR fantasy points, easily surpassing everyone from last season. There is no reason to believe Johnson will see a light workload as Arizona featured 410 rush attempts while targeting the running back 130 times in 2017. Keep in mind, the last time Johnson was healthy, he totaled 2,118 yards and 20 touchdowns, while falling only 121 receiving yards shy of a 1,000/1,000 season. – Justin Bales
The Cardinals offense will begin and end with David Johnson in 2018, plain and simple. The team has no choice as outside of Larry Fitzgerald and Johnson, there are no other proven pass-catching options on the roster. Look for DJ to reach (and possibly exceed) his 373 touch total from 2016 when he finished as the RB1 in both PPR and Standard leagues. – Josh Brickner
Well, that was sure a popular pick. This is the first one we’ve had with four writers picking the same guy. Unfortunately, it did not pan out. It’s hard to place much of the blame on DJ, as the Cardinals were basically a dumpster fire from the word go. And these four writers were far from alone in their sentiments about DJ, as many in the industry pegged him for a huge season. It all made sense: an elite talent, not much competition for targets in the passing game, and the focal point of the Cardinal offense. We just didn’t expect the Cards to be so, so bad.
Le’Veon Bell, RB PIT
There’s no more valuable spot in fantasy than a bellcow running back. And running back production correlates very strongly with playing time and touches. Bell touched the ball 406 times in 2017. The next best RB was LeSean McCoy with 346. Bell played 945 snaps in 2017 with Todd Gurley second with just 796. It’s amazing that Gurley (or anyone) managed to outproduce Bell given the advantage he had. It looks increasingly likely that Bell is not in Pittsburgh long-term but both the team and the player have a strong interest in going out with a productive final year. In an era when very few teams commit to high running back playing time or volume, I’m betting on one of the very few situations where we’ve seen a marked preference for doing so. – Tom Kislingbury
Yeah, I hear you. “But he’s missing the whole preseason again and he had over 400 touches last year!” My response to you is that, until proven otherwise, there’s nobody better at the running back position. I expect Bell to once again have a monster year and do the kind of things very few backs can do. Sure, he might start out slowly but he will win many teams fantasy championships this year. He had 400+ touches because the team trusts him, and they will again this year. They have no reason to do otherwise, and I expect another huge performance from Bell. – Ryan Finley
Well, at least I wasn’t alone with egg on my face. Bell burned me in many, many ways this past season. Both Tom and I expected way more out of the uber-talented Le’Veon Bell, and neither one of us expected the whole season holdout. Did anybody? It’s tough, but we have to take hit on this one. It’s hard to do worse than calling a guy the MVP who scores zero points. Rough.
Every fantasy season has its own unique flavor. You have seasons dominated by young wide receivers, seasons where running backs are the name of the game, and sometimes it’s about the quarterback. I don’t believe any of our writers had the exact right call for the Fantasy MVP, though the CMC call was close.
For my money, the fantasy MVP of 2018 is Patrick Mahomes. I know that quarterbacks are undervalued as so many still play in single quarterback formats. But Mahomes put up such monster numbers and outscored the competition by a significant margin. He was a league winner in 2018. Not only did he put up 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns, but he also added 272 yards rushing and another two touchdowns. If you only look at weeks 1-16, he outscored the second place fantasy player (Ben Roethlisberger) by 67 PPR points. Mahomes averaged over 30 points per game. Quarterback or not, Mahomes is both the NFL MVP and the Fantasy MVP.
Did Mahomes check all the Fantasy MVP boxes for you, or do you have someone else?
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