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Fantasy MVPs not limited to top of draft

Posted Dec 28, 2012

Aside from the few leagues that still feature their championship game in Week 17, another fun and fascinating season of fantasy football is in the books.

As always, many players fell short of meeting expectations based on their draft position, while still more exceeded their draft slot. But it all added up to a balanced season, a year in which few players stood out above the pack.

There were, of course, a few notable overachievers and uber-achievers.

Here are my "MVP" choices by position. The definition of Most Valuable Player pretty much speaks for itself; the Most Value-Based Player is the individual that best outperformed his draft-day value.


QUARTERBACK

MOST VALUABLE: Tom Brady

The three quarterbacks picked in the first round of most fantasy drafts all ended the year at the top of the position but were bunched together and only slightly stood above several quarterbacks drafted much later.

Brady gets the nod by the narrowest of margins over Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. If anything separates them, it's that Brees struggled with turnovers significantly more than the other two, while Brady managed to sneak in four touchdown runs while the other two combined for three touchdown runs.

Really, fantasy owners that invested a first-round pick in any of these quarterbacks had to be pleased. That's not often the case.

MOST VALUE-BASED: Robert Griffin III

For the second consecutive year, the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft far exceeded his fantasy draft status.

Griffin was a mid-round fantasy pick and perhaps wouldn't have even been that if not for the rookie season enjoyed by Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who went undrafted in some fantasy leagues last year but quickly emerged as a must-start.

That's exactly what RGIII did. Only the big three QBs had better fantasy years.


RUNNING BACK

MOST VALUABLE: Arian Foster

The Texans back went No. 1 in many a fantasy draft, and he lived up to the billing.

Foster has put up nearly 100 yards of total offense every week and averaged a touchdown. The only downer is that his worst week was the most important week for most fantasy owners – a 15-yard showing last week.

MOST VALUE-BASED: Adrian Peterson

The Vikings star has been a top-five pick throughout his career, and he has played like one again this season despite often being drafted in the third round.

A major knee injury late last season cast serious doubt on his likely effectiveness this season, and some fantasy drafts took place before he was even cleared to play. All Peterson has done is threaten the NFL single-season rushing record.

It's pretty safe to say he won't be available in the third round next year.


WIDE RECEIVER

MOST VALUABLE: A.J. Green

The second-year Bengal was just a little better than several others at the spot during the fantasy regular season, currently ranking in the top six in the NFL in receptions, yards and touchdowns.

Calvin Johnson would have been in contention if not for his lack of touchdowns (five vs. 11 for Green). Dez Bryant and Brandon Marshall put themselves in contention with explosive fantasy postseason performances, but Green's consistency at a position that produces little fantasy consistency was hard to beat.

MOST VALUE-BASED: Randall Cobb/James Jones

When the season started, Packers receivers Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson were hot fantasy commodities, with backups Randall Cobb and James Jones viewed as depth picks at best.

One of the duos has produced nearly 1,700 receiving yards and 22 touchdowns, while the other duo has about 900 yards and eight touchdowns - the exact opposite of what was forecast.

Injuries have limited Jennings to a large extent and Nelson to some extent, but the Packers passing attack hasn't missed a beat with Cobb and Jones. The owner in your league who drafted Jones (13 touchdowns) extremely late or picked him up as a free agent probably had a better year than the one that drafted Jennings (two touchdowns) in the second round or so.


TIGHT END

MOST VALUABLE: New England tight end

If fantasy leagues allowed owners to select a team tight end position like they do a team defense, the Patriots' team tight end might be the No. 1 overall pick.

Rob Gronkowski was the league's best fantasy tight end before injuries sidelined the last five weeks. Teammate Aaron Hernandez then picked up when he left off, highlighted by monster games in Weeks 14 and 15.

MOST VALUE-BASED: Tony Gonzalez

In a year when more tight ends were selected early in fantasy drafts than ever before, the gap between the early choices and some of the later ones wasn't great at all. Gonzalez was the best example, going for 88 catches, 899 yards and eight touchdowns as a mid-round selection.

Jason Witten of the Cowboys was nearly as good a value, having fallen further in drafts because of a preseason spleen injury, and Panthers tight end Greg Olsen proved a good value as well. A couple of guys who weren't even drafted – Heath Miller and Dennis Pitta – were right there with the group.