Fantasy football Roundtable: Peyton Manning delivers as fantasy MVP
The playoffs have arrived. What players were the most and least valuable this season, and who can owners trust in the postseason? Our fantasy experts Michael Beller, Brian Flood and Alessandro Miglio discuss those topics and more in this week's fantasy roundtable.
1. With the fantasy football regular season wrapped up, who is your fantasy MVP?
Beller: I'd love to be able to avoid the obvious, but it has to be Peyton Manning. He threw for 4,125 yards and 41 touchdowns against just nine interceptions in the fantasy regular season, giving him 317 fantasy points. The next highest-scoring quarterback, Matthew Stafford, had 262.2. Throw in the fact that Manning really hasn't had a dud game all year and that he was typically no higher than the third quarterback selected in drafts last summer, and this becomes a no-brainer choice. Chances are the real football world will agree with us when the season concludes.
Miglio: Josh Gordon is making a late charge here given he has surely buoyed many a playoff run, but the answer here -- as it was at midseason for me -- is the Denver Broncos' offense. Specifically, Knowshon Moreno and Peyton Manning, both of whom have proven to be high-value picks. Moreno, in particular, was a late-round steal who wound up being a top-five fantasy back this season.
Flood: Peyton Manning edges out Jamaal Charles and Calvin Johnson because you didn't need a first-round pick to grab Manning. Manning threw seven touchdown passes in Week 1 and he's continued to dominate fantasy leagues throughout the season. He's the No. 1 scorer in most formats and has a legitimate chance to break the NFL record for touchdown passes in a season.
2. Who was your fantasy least valuable player?
Beller: Again, this one is easy. Trent Richardson was typically drafted early in the second round, as many believed he could vault into the fantasy elite this season. Instead, he ran for 411 yards and two touchdowns on 139 carries during the fantasy regular season -- an average of 4.43 fantasy points per game. You could make an argument for C.J. Spiller and Ray Rice, and Doug Martin was saved from inclusion because of his injury, but all of those guys at least had a productive game here and there. Richardson has been a bust from Week 1 and has no chance at redeeming himself with Donald Brown entrenched as the Colts' starter.
Miglio: Richardson is the no-brainer answer here, though I had him pegged as a bust before the season began. Still, I would have taken him if he had been available at the end of the first round, and that would have been disastrous. Spiller might have gotten my vote had he not had a couple of strong games, including a huge one against the Falcons last week. Richardson can't even take advantage of good matchups.
Flood: Richardson was the least valuable fantasy player this season. At least other big-name busts can blame injuries for their lack of production. Richardson is just plain terrible. It didn't matter if he was playing for the Browns or Colts, because he was awful for both franchises. Richardson has averaged only three yards per carry and hasn't surpassed 60 rushing yards in any game this season, and he's only scored two touchdowns despite 139 carries. Sadly, fantasy owners probably continued to start Richardson until recently, hoping for a breakthrough. Richardson is one of the worst first-round picks in the history of fantasy football.
3. Which player provided the biggest return on investment?
Beller: If someone in your league drafted Moreno, he or she likely did so as a dart throw once the pickings were slim. If that owner held onto him, he or she ended up with the third-highest scoring running back through 13 weeks. Moreno has 1,356 yards from scrimmage and 11 total touchdowns this season. Only two other backs are north of 1,300 total yards with double-digit scores. Their names? Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson, and they went slightly earlier in drafts than Moreno.
Miglio: We come back to Moreno, who was being taken as a late-round flier. There are no other real contenders here; the amazing tear-producer was far and away the best value.
Flood: Gordon was suspended for the first two weeks of the season, causing his average draft position to slip. Owners were rewarded almost immediately when Gordon caught 10 balls for 146 yards and a touchdown in Week 3. Gordon also stepped up for owners fighting for a spot in fantasy playoffs. In his last three weeks, Gordon has 29 catches for 623 yards and four touchdowns. Not too shabby for a 10th-round pick.
4. For owners who are in the playoffs, do you recommend riding your lineup or scouring the waiver wire for players who could provide your team with a boost?
Beller: I'd say it's a mix of both. For example, Jordy Nelson has been an important player on two of my playoff-bound teams. I wouldn't be where I am without him. However, if Aaron Rodgers has to miss another game this week, I will be awfully tempted to bench Nelson, even though the Packers play the Falcons. At the same time, I'm not making a move just for the sake of doing so. Everything you do has to have an impetus, whether it's Week 1 or the Fantasy Bowl.
Miglio: "Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive." -- Andy Grove
"Complacency is my enemy." -- Trent Reznor
You should always be vigilant on the waiver wire and maximize your lineups, even in the playoffs. That is not to say you should move away from something that's working -- it would be hard to bench Gordon this week, for example, despite the possibility that Alex Tanney will start at quarterback -- but don't just assume you can stick the same guys in your lineup every week. Injuries happen in the playoffs, too, so stay sharp on the waiver wire.
Flood: If you're in the playoffs then your team is probably fairly good. Don't ever bench your studs because of matchup if they've produced for you all season long. If you've started someone for the majority of the season, losing a playoff matchup while that player explodes on you bench is a horrible feeling. At this point in the season, it's doubtful that a successful fantasy team would start a player on waivers. That said, don't be an absentee owner. You're in the playoffs for a reason, so continue to be savvy and look for potential difference-makers. It's smart to grab the running back handcuff of every team in your league's playoffs.
5. Which kickers and defenses have the best matchups in the coming weeks?
Beller: Kicker is a total fantasy crapshoot. At this point, you should have a kicker worthy of being a starter from week to week. I'd say dance with who brought you in this regard.
As for defense, I've been touting the Bills as a sneaky playoff defense for a few weeks now. They play the Buccaneers, Jaguars and Dolphins the next three weeks, and are actually the 12th-highest scoring fantasy defense in the league. Other than that, target teams playing the bumbling Jets. That includes the Raiders and Browns. New York also plays the Panthers, but you won't be able to stream them.
Miglio: Kickers are relics that need to be eliminated from fantasy football. They are total wild cards, evidenced by the fact that just two fantasy points per game separate the "worst" special teams unit against opposing kickers -- the Falcons -- from the 16th-worst Texans.
As for defenses, my favorite streaming options involve units that are playing flailing offenses. The Raiders get the Jets in Week 14, for example. It might be unconventional to pick up such a bad defense, but the Jets have a quarterback crisis. The same could be said about the Browns, who, again, might be starting Tanney this week. Beyond that, the Lions have a nice finish brewing, going up against the inconsistent Ravens and turnover-prone Giants offenses.
Flood: Oakland, Carolina and Cleveland face the Jets over the next three weeks. Any defense facing the hapless Jets is worth using in the fantasy playoffs. As for kickers, Justin Tucker has been on absolute fire. Look for more big games from the Ravens kicker in Weeks 14 and 15. Matt Prater should be able to take advantage of a trip to Houston in Week 16, when many owners are playing for the title.
Bonus question: SI.com fantasy experts, time to dish. Tell readers about your regular-season finish in your fantasy football league(s).
Beller: I hate to sound like I'm bragging, but the editors insisted on this question, so I'll go ahead and pat myself on the back. I had one of my best fantasy football seasons in years. I made the playoffs in all of my leagues, and took home one regular season championship that also included a total points crown. This was an auction league, and I went 11-2 on the strength of my Peyton Manning-Jamaal Charles combo.
In the 16th year of my home league, the Skokie Fantasy Football League, I went 7-6 and made my way to the postseason. That league means more to me than any of them. Don't worry, readers. I'll update you with my playoff performance in a few weeks.
Miglio: The fantasy gods are a fickle bunch.
As usual, I had mixed results this season. It was a particularly nail-biting time for me in the past couple of weeks because I was in the hunt for a playoff spot in the majority of my leagues, but I had only secured a spot in one until this past weekend. A few postseason bids fell short.
Two of my three dynasty teams were in the playoffs, but I was already knocked out of one this week thanks to New Orleans' inability to slow down Russell Wilson. Only two of several redraft leagues have yielded playoff results. Both of those happen to be home leagues that include bragging rights among friends, so at least I won't have to endure that humiliation.
Highlighting how much luck factors into fantasy football is the fact I will wind up the No. 2 scorer in one league only to miss the playoffs with a 6-7 record. Nothing can compare to losing a championship game by .03 points like I did last year, but this has been a tough fantasy campaign for this writer.
Flood: Unfortunately, I selected Richardson in the majority of my leagues, and we already discussed his ineffectiveness above. I was able to salvage two of three leagues with pickups and trades. I'm playoff bound in two of them despite owning Richardson. In one league, I was able to overcome drafting Richardson by also drafting Peyton Manning, Dez Bryant, Antonio Brown and Josh Gordon. Picking up Nick Foles and Zac Stacey helped out my other playoff-bound team.
I actually really like my team in the league that isn't heading to the playoffs. Things didn't work out, but I own Cam Newton, Chris Johnson, Zac Stacy, Victor Cruz, Jordan Reed and Andre Ellington. In full disclosure, I was offered Calvin Johnson for Julio Jones and David Wilson before the season and I didn't accept.
MORE WEEK 14 FANTASY FOOTBALL CONTENT:
SI STAFF: Player Rankings -- Peterson could struggle against Ravens run defense
BELLER: Analyzing the fantasy implications of a 9:30 a.m. ET kickoff in 2014
EDHOLM, MIGLIO: Bold Strategies -- Rod Streater faces strong matchup
FLOOD: Waiver Wire -- Underwood, Green could add depth for the playoffs
BELLER: Early Week 14 Fantasy Advice -- Making sense of huge performances