On February 6th, one day before Super Bowl 50, the NFL will hold its annual NFL Honors gala in San Francisco. Black ties will be donned. Red carpets will be walked. Bad jokes will be told by host Conan O’ Brien. And individual awards galore will be handed out, including the 2015 NFL J.J. Watt of the Year. I mean Defensive Player of the Year.
What? Like O’ Brien owns the whole skinny redhead telling bad jokes shtick or something. Please.
Well, here at Fantasy Sharks, we may be a little short on red carpets, any tuxedos might have to be a rental, and it’s doubtful our ceremony will be broadcast by CBS (unless you mean the Comoros Broadcast System, and even then probably not), but that doesn’t mean we can’t hand out some hardware of our own.
OK, so not real hardware per se – those trophies cost money!
With that in mind, here’s a look back at some of the top performers in Individual Defensive Player fantasy football leagues in 2015.
The envelope, please.
IDP ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Stephone Anthony – ILB, New Orleans Saints
There weren’t really any huge fantasy seasons from first-year players in IDP leagues in 2015. In fact, not a single rookie cracked the top 12 at their respective positions. However, there were a few youngsters who managed to post top-20 numbers, headlined by New Orleans Saints’ linebacker Stephone Anthony.
Granted, the Saints defense was a roaring dumpster fire most of the season, but the first-rounder’s play was a rare bright spot. Anthony paced the team with 112 total tackles en route to being named to the Pro Football Writers of America’s All-Rookie team, and Rotowire opined that Anthony’s rookie year gave both fans of the Saints and IDP owners plenty of hope for the future.
“Anthony’s rookie season was a roaring success,” they wrote, “as he seized the starting middle linebacker job in the preseason and never looked back. While he did not offer much as a pass rusher, Anthony almost certainly will start 2016 as the Saints’ starting middle linebacker and should serve as a consistent source of tackles for fantasy owners in IDP leagues for years to come.”
IDP WAIVER WIRE WONDER OF THE YEAR
Kawann Short – DT, Carolina Panthers
Short was relegated to afterthought status after being selected by the Panthers behind Star Lotulelei in the 2013 NFL Draft, but as Bleacher Report’s Brent Sobleski reported after racking up a career-high 11 sacks (and finishing among the top 10 defensive linemen in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring) in 2015 the former Purdue star is an afterthought no more.
“Together,” Sobleski said, “Short and Lotulelei form one of the league’s best defensive tackle tandems, but the real star at this point in their careers is the one Carolina selected with the 44th, not 14th, overall pick in the 2013 draft.”
Lotulelei may have put it best while speaking with Jonathan Jones of The Charlotte Observer. “He’s come a long way, especially from our rookie year,” Lotulelei said. “Just being a dominant player that he’s always been capable of. I think he kind of had to get some things figured out when we came in as rookies, but ever since then he’s really taken off. He hasn’t looked back. He’s been the most dominant inside player in the league this year, in my opinion.”
VALUE PICK OF THE YEAR
Malcolm Smith – OLB, Oakland Raiders
Last summer, plenty of attention was paid to an inside linebacker acquired in free agency by the Oakland Raiders. The problem is, we mostly paid attention to the wrong one. Because while Curtis Lofton spent as much of the season as not angering his coaches and watching from the sidelines, Malcolm Smith emerged as a key contributor for both fantasy owners and the Silver and Black.
There was enough writing on the wall by the end of training camp that the MVP of Super Bowl XLVIII was set to play an every-down role for the Raiders in 2015 that Smith became a late flier candidate, but no one expected the fifth-year veteran to post 122 tackles (including 99 solos), four sacks, two forced fumbles and a pick – good for sixth among fantasy linebackers in 2015.
As Smith told Jerry McDonald of The San Jose Mercury-News, “”I come from a place where I was starving for snaps. Now I get a ton of ’em. It’s awesome — a responsibility I am embracing,”
IDP owners who took that late flier in 2015 are embracing it as well.