Peacemakers have the Nobel Prize. Musicians have the Grammys. Fantasy football players are stuck with Biro’s Heroes & Zeros.
I’m sorry. It’s just the way it is.
Once again, before we close the books on another exhilarating/frustrating/victorious/humiliating (circle one) fantasy season, we must take a quick stroll back through 2015 to examine the players we rooted for and against and – with as much objectivity as we can muster – give credit where credit is due.
As always, our annual accolades (and condemnations) have but a few important criteria:
1. Consistency on a weekly basis is next to godliness.
2. Production during the fantasy playoffs – NFL Weeks 14 through 16 – is given extra weight. Players who let their owners down at the worst possible time earn our eternal scorn. (We’re looking at you, Big Ben.)
3. Week 17 is dead to us. (Lucky for you, Gronk.)
Without further ado, I am pleased to present the 10th Annual Biro’s Heroes & Zeros
Most Valuable Player: Cam Newton, QB, Panthers. Unlike most years, no clear-cut MVP emerged in Fantasyland in 2015. Newton gets the nod thanks to his late-season heroics, and despite his pedestrian outing in Week 16. Runner-up: Tom Brady, QB, Patriots.
“Peerless Price Memorial” Bust of the Year: C.J. Anderson, RB, Broncos. A consensus first-round draft pick, Anderson was so ineffective early on that Ronnie Hillman stole his starting job. He flashed his 2014 form in a couple of games, but those came too late, or while he was buried on his owners’ benches. Runner-up: DeMarco Murray, RB, Eagles.
Rookie of the Year: Todd Gurley, RB, Rams. Once he broke into the starting lineup, Gurley showed that he is, indeed, franchise-back material. Though he was regularly held in check by the dearth of talent around him, he was a fantasy gem in most weeks. Runner-up: Amari Cooper, WR, Raiders.
Comeback Player of the Year: Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals. The biggest surprise was not that Palmer soared as the leader of Arizona’s high-octane offense, but that he managed to stay upright for all 16 games. Runner-up: DeAngelo Williams, RB, Steelers.
Mr. Reliable: Brandon Marshall, WR, Jets. When Ben Roethlisberger is under center, nobody is more reliable than Antonio Brown. But this year, Marshall set the pace with Ryan Fitzpatrick, of all people, flinging him passes. Marshall scored at least once in a dozen games and exceeded 100 receiving yards 10 times. Runner-up: Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots.
Surprise of the Year: Gary Barnidge, TE, Browns. The veteran toiled in obscurity for the first six years of his NFL career. Then he caught fire in Cleveland, of all places, finishing in the elite ranks. Runner-up: Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars.
Best Waiver Wire Acquisition: Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks. Widely available in Week 10 at the dawn of his extraordinary late-season emergence, Baldwin led countless fantasy owners to titles down the stretch. Runner-up: Bortles.
Mr. Big Play: Odell Beckham, Jr, WR, Giants. Among his 13 TDs were scoring jaunts of 50, 67, 72, 84 and 87 yards. Runner-up: Brandin Cooks, WR, Saints.
Most Devastating Injury Loss: Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs. Charles was well on his way to another stellar season when he blew out his knee in Week 5, leaving his owners scrambling. Runner-up: Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys.
Steal of the Draft: Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons. He began the season backing-up Tevin Coleman, then seized his opportunity when the rookie went down in Week 2. The eventual No. 1 RB in fantasy football was widely available in the 10th round or later. Runner-up: Palmer.
Most Valuable Handcuff: DeAngelo Williams. The oldest RB in the league was stellar during Weeks 1 and 2 while Le’Veon Bell served his suspension. Then he was even better after Bell suffered a season-ending injury in Week 8. Runner-up: David Johnson, RB, Cardinals.
“Thomas Jones Memorial” Most Underrated: Eric Decker, WR, Jets. His counterpart absorbed most of the accolades, but Decker was nearly as effective, scoring in all but three games and exceeding 1,000 receiving yards on the season. Runner-up: Danny Woodhead, RB, Chargers.
Most Overrated: Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers. The heralded rookie came up short week after week while Woodhead ran circles around him. Runner-up: Andrew Luck, QB, Colts.
Might As Well Be Injured: Murray. Last year’s rushing leader was used so sparingly, he wasn’t even start-worthy most of the season. Thanks for nothing, Chip. Runner-up: Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers.
Made Chicken Salad from Chicken Scratch: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans. Despite the motley assortment of quarterbacks he played with, Hopkins managed to catch scoring passes from four of them while finishing among the Top 6 fantasy wideouts of the season. Runner-up: Barnidge.
Biggest Postseason Disappointment: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers. If you survived Big Ben’s Week 14 letdown, he likely cost you a title with his 215-yard, zero-TD, two-INT outing in Week 16. Runner-up: Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions.
Most Spectacular Bench Performance: Drew Brees, QB, Saints. On the heels of two consecutive “meh” games, Brees torched the Giants with 505 passing yards and seven touchdowns in Week 8. Runner-up: Eli Manning, QB, Giants (350 passing yards and six TDs in the same game).
Lived Up to the Hype: Gurley. The only thing wrong with this rookie was the sorry offense that surrounded him. Runner-up: Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings.
“Frisman Jackson Memorial” Irrational Exuberance Award: Leonard Hankerson, WR, Falcons. Countless fantasy owners jumped on Hankerson’s bandwagon after the veteran vaulted over Roddy White to become Atlanta’s No. 2 wideout. He then quickly flamed out in Atlanta, and again in New England, before finishing the season in Buffalo. Runner-up: Tyrod Taylor, QB, Bills.
Team Bust of the Year (a.k.a. They Are Who We Thought They Were): 49ers. There isn’t a player on this team that you regret not drafting. Runner-up: Titans.
“Plaxico Burress Memorial” Bonehead of the Year: Beckham, Jr. His lack of discipline in the showdown with Carolina’s Josh Norman earned him a one-game suspension – during fantasy championship week, no less. Runner-up: Martavis Bryant, WR, Steelers.
Most Likely to Succeed in 2016: David Johnson. Once the lesser talents above him on Arizona’s depth chart fell away, Johnson got his opportunity to dazzle as a rusher and receiver. He should enter his second season as the unchallenged starter. Runner-up: Jeremy Langford, RB, Bears.
As always, I’m open to your feedback on these awards. Feel free to comment below, and be sure to begin your message with “You’re an idiot because…”
Ladd Biro is a two-time winner and four-time finalist of the Football Writer of the Year Award by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Follow all his advice daily at the Fantasy Fools blog (fantasy-fools.blogspot.com), on Facebook and via Twitter (@ladd_biro).