By Ari Gilberg
After eight weeks we’ve reached the mid-point of what has been a roller coaster fantasy season. We’ve seen a career-backup quarterback become an every-week starter (when healthy) in Tyrod Taylor, a future Hall of Fame quarterback basically become fantasy irrelevant in Peyton Manning, and a rash of injuries derail first round picks in Le’Veon Bell, Jamal Charles, Dez Bryant and most recently Matt Forte.
With two months already in the books, let’s just get to it – here are your mid-season fantasy football awards.
Top Fantasy Rookie – Todd Gurley, RB, St. Luis Rams:Embed from Getty Images
Similar to last year’s breakout rookie star Odell Beckham Jr., Gurley opened the season on the injury list. Still recovering from a torn ACL he suffered in his final collegiate season at the University of Georgia, Gurley was forced to miss the Rams first two games. He eventually made his long-awaited debut in Week 3… and absolutely flopped, rushing for just nine yards on six carries.
However, the 10th overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft has rushed for more than 100 yards in each game since, and has posted a fantasy line of 16.1, 15.9, 28.3, and 20.6 points scored, according to ESPN.
Not including his debut performance, Gurley is averaging 141.5 rushing yards and 0.75 touchdowns-per-game. Translated over a 16-game season, that equals out to 2,264 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.
As a result, even with just five games under his belt, Gurley is already being praised by former and current running backs such as Herschel Walker and Adrian Peterson, and some experts believe the rookie has surpassed Peterson and Bell as the best running back in the NFL.
Honorable Mentions: Amari Cooper, Stefon Diggs, and Jameis Winston
Most Disappointing Rookie – Melvin Gordon, RB, San Diego Chargers:
Gurley wasn’t the only running back taken in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft. Melvin Gordon was picked just five spots behind Gurley, drafted 15th overall by the Chargers. With an injured Danny Woodhead and an uninspiring Brandon Oliver and Donald Brown as his only competition for touches, Gordon seemed poised to quickly develop into a workhorse every-down back. Eight weeks in, and it’s clear that won’t be the case, at least not this season.
Not only has the former Wisconsin Badger failed to come close to Gurley’s production, he’s failed to even be worthy of cracking your starting lineup. Gordon has yet to register double digit fantasy points scored, he’s failed to rush for more than 100 yards or score a touchdown and his 3.7 yards-per-carry rank 38th out of 50 qualifying running backs, according to ESPN Stats & Info’s database.
With games against the Oakland Raiders, Denver Broncos (two) and Jacksonville Jaguars – the NFL’s second, third, and 10th best rushing defenses – Gordon’s second-half schedule won’t make things any easier for him.
Honorable Mention: Marcus Mariota, Nelson Agholor, and DeVante Parker
Comeback Player of the Year – Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals:Embed from Getty Images
At the end of the 2014 season, Andy Dalton seemed like the biggest thief since Bernie Madoff. After signing a six-year $115 million contract, he rewarded the Bengals by throwing nearly as many interceptions (17) as touchdowns (19), “leading” them to a fourth-straight first-round exit in the playoffs and finishing as the 18th highest-ranked fantasy quarterback.
Oh, how the times have changed. This year “The Red Rifle” has thrown for nearly 2,000 passing yards, 15 touchdowns (to just four interceptions), and is averaging 21.1 points-per-game – second-highest among all quarterbacks, and behind only Tom Brady.
Thanks in large part to Dalton’s spectacular play, the Bengals have developed into one of the most electrifying offenses in the NFL, putting up 28.3 points-per-game, third-best in the NFL.
Honorable Mentions: Doug Martin, Carson Palmer, and Larry Fitzgerald
Biggest Surprise – Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons:
Raise your hand if you thought that the highest-scoring running back at mid-season would be Devonta Freeman? Put your hand down you filthy liar because not a single person could have predicted this type of fantasy explosion from the second-year running back out of Florida State.
After rushing for less than 300 yards, and averaging a mediocre 3.8 yards-per-carry, his rookie season, Freeman watched as the Falcons took Tevin Coleman in the fourth round of this year’s NFL Draft. While Coleman was the presumed starter, and a popular sleeper pick, it was Freeman who quickly took hold of the starting job, leaving Coleman in the dust.
Freeman, who’s dominated as both a rusher and a pass catcher, currently has more than 1,000 total yards and ten touchdowns and leads all running backs with 159 fantasy points – nearly 60 more than the next-highest running back. Now, that’s a pretty solid start to the season for ESPN’s pre-draft 38th ranked running back.
Honorable Mentions: Chris Ivory, Dion Lewis, and Gary Barnidge
Biggest Disappointment – Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts:Embed from Getty Images
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. A fantasy star the previous two years, Luck entered this season as a borderline first round pick with expectations of finishing the year as the highest-scoring player. Despite being viewed as one of the safest picks possible – some even argued you should take him with the first overall pick – Luck has been an absolute nightmare through the first half of the season.
Rather than opponents fearing the beard, it has been his fantasy owners that are running scared as a result of Luck’s horrific numbers. Averaging just 13.7 points-per-game, Luck – who was believed to be in the same tier as Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers – is currently sandwiched in-between the recently-benched Colin Kaepernick (13.8 points-per-game) and journeyman Brian Hoyer (13.6 points-per-game) as the 20th highest-scoring quarterback, putting him barely on the QB2 radar.
With more turnovers (15) than touchdowns (13), Luck has disappointed fantasy owners who wasted a first, or second, round pick on the former nuber one overall pick.
Honorable Mentions: Peyton Manning, Dez Bryant, and C.J. Anderson
MVP – Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots:
Can you honestly give this award to anyone else? After an off-season filled with drama surrounding Deflategate, Brady, and the Patriots, have stormed out of the gate like they have something to prove.
In just seven games – all of which ended in a Patriots victory – Brady has thrown for more than 2,400 yards, 20 touchdowns (to just a single interception), owns 115.8 quarterback rating, rushed for two more touchdowns, and is the highest-scoring player with 26.6 points-per-game, according to ESPN.
Both Brady and the Patriots haven’t performed this well since 2007, when Brady led the Patriots to an undefeated 17-0 regular season after throwing for 4,806 yards and a then-record 50 touchdowns to just eight interceptions. The way Brady and the Patriots are currently playing, a similar finish isn’t that remote of a possibility.
Honorable Mentions: N/A