Column: Fantasy football awards

Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) runs against the Indianapolis Colts during the first of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015, in Atlanta. Freeman left the game due to injury. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

The season may not quite be over yet, but in most leagues the playoffs have started by now. If you are in the playoffs, you’re probably not digging through the waivers for a running back or considering benching your quarterback.

So, instead of the usual poor advice, let’s do something different. Let’s look at some players that have defied expectations this year in fantasy, both positively and negatively. As is the case most season, there have plenty of steals and plenty of busts.

All cited fantasy point totals refer to ESPN standard scoring, and all cited average draft positions refer to ESPN live draft results.

STEAL: Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals. Palmer was the 24th quarterback off the board, on average, and has been a weekly stud as the leader of a dangerous Arizona offense. Palmer has thrown multiple touchdown passes in nine of his 12 games and hasn’t finished a single game with less than 16 fantasy points.

BUST: Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos. Many of the Broncos’ offensive players have been disappointing this season, and that mostly rests on the shoulders of Manning, who has had a shockingly poor age-39 campaign. Manning only reached double digit fantasy points in four of his nine outings before going out with a foot injury. He may have healed by now, but he seems to have lost his starting job to Brock Osweiler.

STEAL: Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons. Freeman has struggled in recent weeks along with the rest of the Atlanta offense, but his stunning early season run has helped him remain the No. 1 fantasy running back, with an average of 15.4 fantasy points per game. Freeman was the 40th running back drafted, on average, behind projected Falcons starter Tevin Coleman.

BUST: Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers. What’s in the water at Alabama? For some reason, former Crimson Tide running backs seem to forget basic football skills after a few great games in the NFL, and Lacy has been no different this year. Taken as the third player overall, on average, he has often looked lost behind the line of scrimmage and has only two rushing touchdowns so far.

STEAL: Allen Robinson, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars. A product of that wonderful 2014 receiving class, Robinson has been a complete monster with Blake Bortles throwing him the ball in 2015. He has been much better than his average draft position as the 32nd wide receiver taken, scoring eleven touchdowns and topping 50 receiving yards in every game but one.

BUST: Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys. This isn’t completely fair, as Bryant missed five games due to injury, but when healthy he has not been himself. He has only two touchdown catches in the seven games he has played, and although the absence of Tony Romo is a huge factor, we expect more from the fourth receiver drafted, on average.

STEAL: Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals. Eifert has been a beacon of hope in the eternal fantasy tight-end wasteland, as he leads the NFL this season with 12 receiving touchdowns. He has been a crucial element in Andy Dalton’s success this season, and he could be found past pick 100, in the average fantasy draft.

STEAL: Broncos D/ST. There are multiple defensive steals every year, so it seems right to honor the defense averaging almost three full points more than the second-place fantasy defense. That’s the Denver Broncos, who have scored six return touchdowns and lead the NFL in team sacks. They went for the 106th pick on average, but currently rank as the 30th highest scoring ‘player’ overall, an impressive feat for a fantasy defense.

Good luck in the fantasy playoffs!


Tyler Keating is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at tyler.keating@uconn.edu.