Fantasy sports have become as much a part of football as John Madden, Lambeau Field, and Mark Sanchez sucking. There are thousands of websites dedicated to the game. Major networks like ESPN have shows dedicated just to fantasy. They put up individual stats in stadiums just so you can keep up-to-date with your players. Channels dedicate "Red Zone Coverage" just to get you the latest on who is scoring and who is hurt.
Yeah, it's pretty major.
So when you do a review of the NFL season, it's impossible to ignore that when an injury or a breakout game happens, it matters just as much in your league as it does on the field. As a Seahawks fan, I care a lot more about Seattle winning than I do Marshawn Lynch scoring. Though I wanted him to keep the streak alive, when it comes to your team then fantasy shouldn't be as important.
What it does is make all 31 other teams (except the Browns) important.
It's time for a review of the headlines that mattered the most in fantasy during the 2011 season. It was a doozy:
Peyton Manning's Pain in the Neck
Before the season started, I did not think that Manning would miss significant time. I mean, he's Peyton F-Ing Manning and he's never missed a game. "Maybe he'll miss two games" I said as I drafted him in the fourth round. A frickin' STEAL I thought.
Of course, just before the season actually started, it was confirmed that he'd miss at least half of the year. Then he missed the whole damn thing and the Colts started 0-13. They nearly lost out on the top pick to the Rams, but now they're in position to move on from Peyton and draft Luck, which is what I would guess they'll do after firing Bill Polian.
When the news broke that he might miss the whole year, I wrote this article on what the 2011 season might be like without him. I thought Kerry Collins might be decent, and that Painter would be bad. I did not have enough foresight to imagine what a world of Dan Orlovsky would be like.
How accurate were my predictions?
I thought that Reggie Wayne might catch between 70-80 balls for around 1,000 yards and 5 TDs. He finished with 75 catches for 940 yards and 4 TDs.
I was a HUGE fan of Austin Collie coming into the year, thinking he was poised for a major breakthrough. With Manning, I thought he could catch 100 balls and was hoping he wouldn't be as affected by the loss of Peyton. But he really hurt from the loss and wound up with 54 catches for 514 yards and 1 TD.
I guess I decided that Pierre Garcon wouldn't matter at all.
The missing Manning was one of the major stories of the year and bleeds into 2012 as we wait and watch to see what Indianapolis decides to do with it's future. Manning seems to be worth at least 6 or 7 wins (or more) and that should be enough to convince a team to go broke on acquiring him, if the Colts make him available.
Charles Not in Charge of His ACL
Jamaal Charles was considered by some to be the top RB in fantasy coming into the season. He was ranked #1 right here on our week 1 rankings for RBs. Though I cautioned people to not make Charles the #1 pick in their draft (because I feared he was overrated and that KC had a soft schedule in 2010) I still thought he was a very good player in a great system for running backs.
It turns out that the difference between Charles and the next guy was a massive gap.
Charles carried the ball 12 times for 83 yards, plus he caught 5 passes and a TD in the first game of the year against Buffalo. And those are your 2011 stats for #1 pick Jamaal Charles, as he blew his knee out and missed the year.
Fantasy owners felt as crippled as Jamaal if they had used their high selection on the KC back and it turned out that hand-cuffing him with Dexter McCluster or Thomas Jones would not matter. Jackie Battle led the Chiefs with a modest 597 yards and there's a clear difference between Jamaal and the next guy.
The future for JC is uncertain, hoping he can be the second-coming of former Chiefs back Priest Holmes, but it's going to be a watch-and-see in 2012 and beyond. Players rarely just recover so easily from injuries like this and he'll be a value pick next year, but he'll slip because of his now serious injury history.
Chris Johnson Doesn't Work Until He Gets Paid! And Then He Still Doesn't Work After He Gets Paid!
CJ2K, one of the best all-around running backs in the NFL over the past three years and a player I once considered "the best all-around player in the game" held out for a big contract coming into this season. After seeing what has happened to guys like Jamaal Charles and Matt Forte, can I really blame him?
Any NFL player can play in his last game on any Sunday. Get paid while you can. It would have just been nice if Johnson had actually done some work after he got his big guarantee.
Two years ago, Johnson ran for over 2,000 yards, 5.6 yards per carry, 14 rushing touchdowns, and 50 catches with 2 more touchdowns.
He slowed down considerably in 2010 (which is one of the reasons why I caution you to NOT overrate a players career year like Charles) but was still very good. He wasn't any good this year.
Johnson ran for 1,047 yards, 4.0 yards per carry, and 4 touchdowns. He caught 57 passes, but none of those went for a score. Over the first half of the season, he ran for over 65 yards just once and had just a single score. He went from being debated as the top pick in your league to not being startable. He was traded in my league for Anquan Boldin.
At only 26 years old, things like this aren't supposed to happen.
I had the top pick in my draft and if it wasn't for the holdout, I might have taken Johnson over Adrian Peterson. Though I didn't win my league anyway, I'm happy I didn't make the mistake of taking CJ2K, or should I say, CJ1K?
The Other RB Busts:
- Peyton Hillis
- Shonn Greene
- Jahvid Best
- Rashard Mendenhall
- Tim Hightower
- LeGarrette Blount
- Felix Jones
- Knowshon Moreno
- Beast Mode (Marshawn Lynch as a consistent threat with 12 straight scoring games)
- Ryan Mathews
- Reggie Bush
- DeMarco Murray
- Ben Tate
- Beanie Wells (Though still too inconsistent)
- Tim Tebow
- Roy Helu
- Darren Sproles
- C.J. Spiller
- Jordy Nelson
- Antonio Brown
- A.J. Green
- Nate Washington
- Darrius Heyward-Bey
- Julio Jones
- Jabar Gaffney
- Laurent Robinson