People have different definitions for “most valuable player.” Some take the value aspect literally, as in which player outperformed his worth. Others believe the best player is the most valuable because, well, he’s the best.
This season, the fantasy football MVP can be described both ways. By and large, he wasn’t the first player drafted at his position, so he produced more than was expected. And in the end, he was the best player at a crucial position.
Cardinals running back David Johnson’s average draft position in ESPN leagues was 10th overall, behind fellow backs Adrian Peterson, Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott. He has more basic-scoring points than all of them, and only quarterback Aaron Rodgers has more points than Johnson overall (17 quarterbacks are among the top 20 scorers, reducing the position’s value).
Though he’s fifth in the league in rushing with 1,233 yards (398 behind the league-leading Elliott), he’s first among running backs with 77 receptions and 841 receiving yards. He ranks higher in both categories than wide receivers such as DeAndre Hopkins, Allen Robinson and Brandon Marshall, all of whom were viewed as top-10 at the position entering the season.
Johnson leads the league in total touchdowns with 20, yards from scrimmage with 2,074 and touches with 365. He has 100 yards from scrimmage in all 15 games, tying Barry Sanders for the longest streak to start a season. In his last seven games, he has scored fewer than 21 points once (average of 23).
Are there better pure values? Sure. DeMarco Murray’s average draft position was 52nd, and he’s fifth in running-back scoring. Melvin Gordon was drafted 69th on average and is seventh. But they can’t match Johnson’s production.
Murray scored five points in Week 16, and Gordon missed the postseason altogether because of injury. Johnson totaled 51 points in Weeks 15-16.
If you won a league title with Johnson leading the way, that sounds like an MVP to me.
Other honors (or dishonors)
Bust of the year: Rams RB Todd Gurley
Some owners took him first overall, and they paid a steep price. After averaging 14.7 points in 12 games last season, Gurley has averaged 8.9 points in 15 games this season. (This dishonor is based on production, not health. Thus, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson wasn’t considered.)
Bad timing of the year: Saints QB Drew Brees
After averaging 22.5 points through 11 games, Brees totaled 11 points in Weeks 13 and 14 against the Lions and Buccaneers, eliminating many teams from title contention. Then, rubbing salt in the wound, he scored 29 points against the Cardinals on the road.
Comeback player of the year: Falcons QB Matt Ryan
Last season, he ranked 19th in scoring at the position with a touchdown-interception ratio of 21-16. This season, he’s second, and his ratio is 34-7. And get this: He has thrown only 22 more yards.
Pleasant surprise of the year: Bears RB Jordan Howard
After going undrafted in ESPN leagues, Howard is ninth in scoring at the position. He’s a keeper-league gem.
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WEEK 17 OUTLOOK
The stock market is closed for the season. For championship games, let’s focus on Studs and Duds.
Jaguars QB Blake Bortles: With the position in flux around the league, he’s a good option against the Colts, who have allowed the seventh-most points to QBs.
Saints RB Mark Ingram: His four TD catches are tied for second among running backs. The Falcons have allowed the most receiving yards and second-most TD catches to RBs.
Jets RB Bilal Powell: The Bills have allowed more than 200 yards to a running back in two of the last three games.
Lions WR Golden Tate: Matthew Stafford’s top target should produce against the Packers, who have allowed the most points to wide receivers.
Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald: He could flourish against the Rams, who have allowed an average of 27.5 points to WRs in the last six games.
Panthers QB Cam Newton: The Buccaneers have allowed an average of 12.3 points to QBs in the last seven games.
Dolphins RB Jay Ajayi: He generally has been all or nothing. Expect closer to nothing against the Patriots, who have held RBs to single digits in four of the last five games.
Redskins RB Robert Kelley: He’s battling a sore knee, and the Giants are allowing 3.6 yards per carry, second-lowest in the league.
Raiders WR Amari Cooper: He has scored in single digits in the last three games. A new quarterback and the Broncos’ top-ranked pass defense won’t help.
Bears WR Alshon Jeffery: If Xavier Rhodes covers him like he’s probably supposed to, Jeffery figures to have a tough day.