It’s awards time, boys and girls. After 16 full weeks of competition, we know who were the good, the bad and the ugly. We know who was a steal and who was a letdown. But for the awards, we’re not just saying “This guy did good” or “avoid this bum next year.” There’s more to it.
For RISERS, it’s a hodgepodge of players who simply exceeded the majority of expectations. Now that could mean a guy who no one expected a thing out of who excelled or a guy who we gave a third-round billing to who provided a first-round effort.
For FALLERS, well, it’s pretty much loser central. Some were straight losers while others provided sixth-round stats at a second-round price tag. Let’s dive in and hand out the brass and take out the trash.
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City
This is probably the biggest “no kidding“ that we’ve written about in all over 2018. Forty-eight touchdowns to only 11 interceptions on the season will do that for a guy. With one game left on the regular season slate, Mahomes is likely to not only break 50 passing touchdowns but also 5,000 yards on the season. Those are the types of totals we’ve only grown used to seeing the greats in their prime like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Even some of the best in the game haven’t sniffed totals like that, one way or another. Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, even Aaron Rodgers would blush at totals like this and Mahomes did it in his first year as a full-time starter. With these numbers under his belt and Andy Reid still running the offensive circus next season, Mahomes figures to go from a guy drafted outside the Top 5 at his position in 2018 to maybe even a first-round consideration next year. Mahomes will likely go higher than we’ve seen Manning, Rodgers and even the one year wonder that was Michael Vick go on draft day.
Phillip Lindsay, RB, Denver
Lindsay went from an undrafted fantasy option to a premium fantasy back in just a short matter of time. He managed to beat out the competition of players drafted ahead of him like Royce Freeman in order to make himself the fantasy mainstay into which he turned himself. Lindsay went from a nobody to a 1,000-yard back with 10 touchdowns for a team with zero offensive identity. Denver traded away Demaryius Thomas, lost Emmanuel Sanders to injury and ran out one of the worst free agent quarterback signings in recent memory with Case Keenum. All things considered, 2018 should widely be considered Lindsay’s fantasy floor. Now, the wrist injury and pending surgery do throw a monkey wrench into the works but he did do enough to deserve late first-round consideration as long as the upcoming news is promising.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina
We were on record in saying that McCaffrey’s frame and running style would not survive without offensive help and no one capable of pretending to be an offensive lineman in front of him. We thought that the young running back would be running head first into a brick wall 300 times on the year. But, to our surprise, McCaffrey didn’t just hold up, he went to town with the workload. After saying goodbye to Kelvin Benjamin and then losing Greg Olsen for two or three separate times on the year, there wasn’t a soul left in Carolina to help shoulder the load. Again, we thought that McCaffrey would flounder in the situation. Instead, the young man posted more than 1,000 yards rushing on a modest 215 attempts while catching an insane 100 passes for another 845 yards. All in all, McCaffrey found the end zone 13 total times with a trick play passing touchdown to boot. He made it work in a situation where most wouldn’t. Next year, if Carolina addresses its line a little bit and then adds someone who actually knows how to catch a football to the offense, McCaffrey could eclipse all the totals we witnessed in 2018.
Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City
We’re usually the ones who go to battle for the smaller wide receivers. Over the years, we’ve been on the forefront protecting the draft stock of the likes of DeSean Jackson, T.Y. Hilton and Victor Cruz. People typically say things like “You can’t count on the big play for consistent production” or “His body won’t take the beating of a WR1.” Regardless of the argument, we found ourselves strangely distanced from Hill in the beginning of 2018. For starters, there was an unproven quarterback in Kansas City. Secondly, we thought that Travis Kelce’s roll in the passing game would limit Hill. Lastly, there was the chance that Mahomes faltered and the offense focus shifted to the running game. Well, if this were baseball, we’d be out. Hill answered all our questions with a resounding “Don’t worry about it” type of production statement. The 12 total touchdowns and the almost 1,400 yards prove that he is no one-hit wonder. Eighty-two catches on the season is nothing to sneeze at either as he’s worlds away from the 50-60 catches with which DeSean Jackson used to grace us. Hill is a monster WR1 who may have earned himself a late first-round call next season.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh
We’ll start off with the one negative for Smith-Schuster – the touchdown total. Six touchdowns on the year doesn’t really shake your fantasy tree. In most cases, we need at least eight on the year in order to begin nodding our heads. But Smith-Schuster was a mid-round pick who we knew was going to be second fiddle to Antonio Brown all season. In fact, many didn’t think that the second-year receiver would be able to match his rookie totals of 58 catches and 917 yards. While the touchdowns were a little upsetting, Smith-Schuster did manage to go for 106 receptions and almost 1,400 yards on the year. Not bad for a guy who was being drafted as a low end WR2/borderline WR3. The long term good for Smith-Schuster is that the receiving threat of Le’Veon Bell is out of town. The long-term negative is that his quarterback threatens retirement every January. But if Bell is cast out and Ben Roethlisberger decides to stay, Smith-Schuster could find himself on the upswing even more so in 2019.
Eric Ebron, TE, Indianapolis
In the beginning stages of our own fantasy-obsessed lives, we couldn’t talk enough negative about Eric Ebron. At first glance, we loved him. We loved the team who selected him, the quarterback he had under center and the receiver taking away coverage over the top. But then, he simply couldn’t produce to the level of expectations that most would have for a first-round tight end. The routes were sloppy, the drops were plenty and the injuries mounted. Just as Detroit said “see ya later”, Indianapolis managed to find a diamond in the rough. Ebron’s 2018 season has been very Antonio Gates-like. Sixty-two catches for about 700 yards with 12 touchdowns. Ebron wasn’t even a name ranked in the Top 10 at his own position but he finishes the year in the same category as Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz. Now that we know for a fact that Andrew Luck’s shoulder isn’t an issue, Ebron will go from outside the Top 10 at tight end to a very popular fourth-round selection next season.