On Saturday, February 4 the NFL’s best and brightest will gather at the Wortham Theater Center in Houston Texas for the sixth annual NFL Honors, a black tie affair hosted by comedian Keegan-Michael Key in which individual awards from Coach of the Year to Most Valuable Player will be handed out – as will something called the “Castrol Edge Clutch Performer of the Year.”
Well, here at Fantasy Sharks we can’t quite afford to rent a fancy theater – or a bowling alley, for that matter. We certainly can’t afford to hire a successful comedian.
We could probably get that guy – but I think we’re gonna go ahead and pass.
Also, while everyone loves the glitz and glamour of the red carpet, most of us here at Fantasy Sharks are more the t-shirts and sweat pants while wiping a salsa stain off the carpet crowd – not that that’s a bad thing.
Still, that doesn’t mean we can’t hand out some awards of our own, so without further ado here are the Fantasy Sharks IDP Honors for the 2016 season.
IDP ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Deion Jones – ILB, Atlanta Falcons
It didn’t take long for Jones to make his presence felt in the NFL, but the youngster admitted to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution that he can’t pinpoint a moment where he realized he’d “made it.”
“I don’t remember exactly when,” Jones said, “but Spoon (LB Sean Weatherspoon) and (LB Paul) Worrilow definitely sat me down and individually said they’re so proud of my progress and I just have to keep the ball rolling from here. Having those guys in my corner since the day I got here has been a really big help, but I consider that they really (have) brought me to the player I am today.”
A strong argument can be made for San Diego Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa in this spot. But Bosa missed a month, and Jones parlayed his 108 total tackles, three interceptions and a forced fumble into the most fantasy points among first-year players in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring – as well as a top-12 finish among all linebackers.
COMEBACK IDP OF THE YEAR
Kiko Alonso – ILB, Miami Dolphins
Ever since Alonso piled up a staggering 159 tackles as a rookie in 2013, fantasy owners have been waiting for a repeat performance. Instead they got a 2014 wiped out completely by an ACL tear and a miserable, injury-marred 2015 campaign in Philadelphia where a clearly limited Alonso managed just 43 tackles.
That lousy year in Philly led to a trade to the Miami Dolphins, and it appears the Florida sun suits the 26-year-old Alonso well. Alonso amassed 115 total stops in 15 games for the Dolphins, pitching in two interceptions and a forced fumble while ranking 13th at the position in fantasy points – not bad for a player who was hampered by a broken thumb down the stretch.
However, there’s some cause for concern for Alonso in 2017, as defensive coordinator Matt Burke told Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald a move outside may be in the works for the restricted free agent. “We’ll see what other type of players we bring in through free agency and the draft and where Kiko fits in,” he said. “Obviously we see him as an important piece of the future. I had a great time working with him and helping him get to that point; but, we really haven’t even started to evaluate position moves, fits, schemes, all of that stuff. That’s going to be an ongoing process.”
THE SUPER SAVER IDP VALUE PICK OF THE YEAR
Zach Brown – ILB, Buffalo Bills
A strong argument can be made that this honor deserves to go to Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Kwon Alexander, who led all players at his position in fantasy points in 2016. Or Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter, who went from third wheel on the Vikings line to high-end IDP DL1.
Alexander and Hunter were fantastic bargains in drafts to be sure – but for a good part of the offseason before Reggie Ragland got hurt in camp Zach Brown didn’t even look draftable. Even after the fifth-year veteran was little more than a late-draft flier taken several rounds after Alexander and Hunter on average.
All Brown did from there was lead the AFC with 149 tackles, chip in four sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception and lead all linebackers on the junior circuit in fantasy points. Simply put, it was an MVP-caliber performance from a fantasy perspective – the type of value pick that wins IDP squads championships.
The fun might not last though. Brown’s breakout came in a contract year, and he left a “Thank You” note on Instagram that appears to show even he knows the Bills might not be able to afford him. “I would like to thank the Bills Mafia for having me in Buffalo,” he said. “It was a crazy season but the love y’all showed me was great! Made it fun to play on Sundays!”
Add in a new head coach (Sean McDermott) and defensive scheme switch in Western New York and the future’s cloudy. The recent past, however, was a blast.
THE BIG LOTS WAIVER WIRE WONDER IDP OF THE YEAR
Jatavis Brown – ILB, San Diego Chargers
Yeah, yeah, I know. They’re in L.A. now. The 2016 season happened in San Diego though, so there.
As then-defensive coordinator John Pagano told Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune back in September, the Chargers weren’t exactly expecting a ton from their rookie fifth-round pick when injuries forced him into the starting lineup for the Bolts. “He’s not a person who has played a lot of football,” Pagano said. “Him missing a lot of time here in training camp hurt him, but we love where he’s at. I always love guys that have that ability who can just run and have that play-making ability.”
Brown didn’t take long to show off that play-making ability. In his first NFL Start Brown racked up seven solos. In each of the next two games he had a sack, including a monster 14-tackle effort in a Week 6 win over the world champion Denver Broncos. From Week 4 to Week 8, Brown tallied 39 total tackles and two sacks – good for third in fantasy points at his position.
Yes, there were players scooped off the waiver wire in 2016 who made a bigger impact over the entirety of the season than Brown, such as his teammate Casey Hayward. But whereas Brown entered 2016 completely off the IDP radar, he’ll head into his second NFL season a presumptive three-down starter in Gus Bradley’s new 4-3 front in L.A. – and at the very least an upside IDP LB3.
Besides, he was a personal favorite of mine this season, and I’m handing out the imaginary trophies. So he gets one.