Fantasy football roundtable: Season review, looking ahead
The NFL fantasy season was filled with tough decisions. After sorting through the lineup choices, injuries and waiver wire options all season, SI's fantasy experts look back at the best and worst of the fantasy campaign and take an early peek at next season's draft.
1. Who was your fantasy MVP this season?
Mike Beacom: It's hard to argue against Adrian Peterson. He ranked third in scoring behind Arian Foster and James Jones and gained more yards from scrimmage (2,314) than any other player. What gives him the edge, though, is how he finished the year: Peterson gained 861 rushing yards and scored six touchdowns in the month of December.
Will Carroll: I'm tooting my own horn, but if I don't who will? I said before the season to "consider Peterson with the first pick overall" and he was worth just that. Peterson was the best player in fantasy, and if you listened to me and took him a bit higher than everyone else, you probably won. I'll admit I didn't expect this kind of performance, but Peterson's normal has this kind of upside and he was normal from Week 1 and likely before. He's the No. 1 again next year and for the foreseeable future.
Eric Mack: Peterson is a fairly easy call. The questions about his offseason knee surgery were answered emphatically. He even slipped out of the first round in many leagues. Sure, his Week 16 was one of his worst, but he carried so many fantasy teams the rest of the way, he's allowed a mulligan. Peyton Manning and Robert Griffin III were nice surprises at quarterback, but they didn't bring it like the early-rounders did down the stretch. Peterson earned the No. 1 overall pick next season and it should be fairly unanimous in drafts next fall.
David Sabino: It's Peterson hands down. Not only was he among the highest-scoring fantasy running backs, but in most leagues his draft position fell far below his eventual value due to a palpable fear that his knee would leave him a shadow of his former self. What made him so valuable is that those who selected him in the second or even third rounds ended up with two first-round talents, and in the second half of the season he was virtually unstoppable.
2. Who rates as the biggest fantasy disappointment?
Beacom: LeSean McCoy scored just five touchdowns in 12 games -- a far cry from his 2011 total of 20. Like the rest of Philadelphia's offense, McCoy crumbled and didn't live up to his top-three fantasy draft slot.
Carroll: It's a tie between Ryan Mathews and Darren McFadden. On the bright side, at least Mathews was relatively good when healthy. First round running back busts are nearly impossible to come back from. You cannot -- CANNOT -- draft either of these guys next season.
Mack: McCoy, McFadden, DeMarco Murray, Maurice Jones-Drew and Mathews were huge failures, which might lead many fantasy owners to be wary of using premium picks on the erratic returns of backs in the second tier. While there were many nice running back finds in the middle rounds, it was hard to not hope for a rebound that never came with these guys. Since McCoy was the first of these off the board, he rates as the year's biggest disappointment. Matthew Stafford, Larry Fitzgerald and Vernon Davis were bums at the other positions, but replacing their production wound up being easier.
Sabino: It's difficult to call someone who threw for 4,967 yards a disappointment, but based on what I thought he'd do this season, Stafford fell far short of the mark. The main problem was that his turnovers (17 interceptions, four fumbles) outnumbered his touchdown passes (2), leaving him with fewer fantasy points than 10 other quarterbacks, including all three star rookies. Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Fitzgerald, an all-time great player who deserves a much better supporting cast than he's been saddled with the past three years in the desert.
3. Biggest surprise?
Beacom: Even if you bought into Alfred Morris' preseason hype you can't say you pictured him finishing the year as the league's No. 2-ranked rusher. No one saw Morris coming. And like Peterson, Morris came through in the clutch (i.e. fantasy playoff time) and he was incredibly consistent throughout the year, with just two games with less than 75 yards rushing. He'll be a top-10 pick in drafts next summer.
Carroll: Russell Wilson was undrafted in almost every league and ended up being a very valuable quarterback. His running offered an explosive element that boosted his value late in the season. Morris deserves mention, though the biggest surprise in Washington was Mike Shanahan settling on one guy and sticking with him.
Mack: No one outside of Peterson himself could have figured a near-record season from a player who had only about eight months of recovery time from reconstructive knee surgery. You could have expected a solid, first-round-caliber season, but seeing him return to being the best back in football has to be considered a surprise to all.
Sabino: On the plus side it's hard to beat what Doug Martin did for the Bucs, and even through three weeks it was difficult to envision him being an impact, front-line fantasy contributor. Weeks later, he was being compared to Ray Rice and managed to outscore the Ravens' fantasy superstar for the season. It's also impossible to overlook the contributions made by Jones, who started the year as the Packers' third/fourth receiver and ended it as the leading touchdown pass-catcher in the league and someone who helped many teams to the fantasy title.
On the opposite end, the biggest shocker has to be how San Francisco's Davis completely disappeared from fantasy relevancy. Someone who should be, at worst, a top-five tight end finished the season 20th at the position, even placing behind players who missed significant time with injuries.
4. Which sleepers will you keep in mind for next season's draft?
Beacom: A few receivers come to mind: Alshon Jeffery, Ryan Broyles and Michael Floyd. All showed promise at times this year and could take a step in 2013. I also believe the 49ers will find more work for LaMichael James in his second season.
Carroll: I think Wilson will be underrated going into next year in a deep quarterback pool. McCoy still will be a first rounder, but if he slips past the first quarterback, he'll be criminally underrated. He could be the No. 2 player in fantasy if the Eagles get a good offensive coach and a real quarterback (or at least one who can stay healthy.) MJD could be a bit of a sleeper as well, although the quarterback situation is key for him as well. Depending on where he goes in the draft, I think Eddie Lacy from Alabama could be a sleeper. He's a Trent Richardson starter kit, and while Richardson was held back by injuries, Lacy was never overtaxed at Alabama.
Mack: Sleepers aren't generally apparent this early. If they were, would anyone really sleep on them? You should expect some solid late-round returns from Giants running back David Wilson and any number of quarterbacks and receivers. Depending on free agency, any one of the Packers wide receivers (Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb) could slip into the late round. At quarterback, no one will be looking at the likes of Eli Manning, Joe Flacco or Philip Rivers as starting options. They will represent potential late-round steals if you miss on an elite passer.
Sabino: There are a lot of changes that will happen in the offseason, but Richardson, who had an overall disappointing rookie year, is in position to become a monster fantasy performer in the right offense with some health. It also appears that his fellow Crimson Tide alum, Mark Ingram, is in great position to pick up more of the Saints' offensive snaps, as is Joseph Morgan, who should see his standing in Drew Brees' passing tree increase in 2013. And with an entire offseason spent studying as the Niners' top signal-caller, Colin Kaepernick could rival the numbers being put up by Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III.
5. What was the best and worst advice you gave this season?
Beacom: During a Q&A in Atlantic City, I was asked if an injured Peterson was worth drafting. I told the host I thought Peterson was a solid second-round pick and would finish the year among the top-10 fantasy running backs. Quite a few people in the audience laughed at that. On the flip side, I sold Jermichael Finley as a nice alternative to those who missed out on the Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham sweepstakes. Oops.
Carroll: The best, by far, was Peterson. I've seldom been that right, and being right at 1-1 is better than saying Cam Newton is worth a late-round flyer as a rookie. I was wrong on Larry Fitzgerald. He was good in 2011 without a solid quarterback, but the play of the entire offense went in the tank and took him along with it. I'm curious what the Buzzsaw will do here. Fitzgerald would be better with someone like Alex Smith or Matt Moore, but how much better? I'd rather see the Cardinals go with a young development guy with talent -- Kirk Cousins or T.J. Yates comes to mind.
Mack: From our preseason bold predictions: "Adrian Peterson will return to the elite -- A.P. should be on the PUP list right now. Instead, he is in the Vikings' huddle, running reps with the first team in practice -- with coaches shouting: 'If you touch Peterson, we'll cut you.' Peterson's quick return from ACL surgery is a bit inhuman. He will perform like he is otherworldly, to the tune of 1,100 yards and 12 TDs." We meant 2,100 yards! On the bad side, that same bold predictions column said McFadden would play 16 games. Oops! We might have meant McFadden is 16 games over multiple seasons away from the end of his fantasy career. He cannot be counted on as a fantasy starter for 16 games ever again.
Sabino: Let's recap the greatest misses first. I was completely off base with Davis, who I had as the third-best tight end going into drafts. I also vastly underestimated the role that Randall Cobb would play for Green Bay. And, again, I was way too high on Stafford and the rest of the Lions. Perhaps my biggest miss was a common one, believing that McCoy was a top-three back. He (like most of his Eagles teammates) was a fantasy disaster. The predictions I'm most proud of: Maintaining the conviction before the season that rookie Morris would be the first workhorse back in years for Shanahan and an every-week fantasy starter; touting Demaryius Thomas as an elite wideout immediately after Peyton Manning signed in Denver; predicting Marshawn Lynch as one of the top-five backs in the league; and believing Vincent Jackson would help elevate Josh Freeman's game in Tampa. During the season I was especially high on Danario Alexander, who started the year as a street free agent before capably filling V-Jax's shoes in San Diego while becoming a late-season fantasy force.