Fantasy team MVPs: It's all about value
What makes a fantasy MVP? It's not simply the guy who tallies the most points, it's also about what it cost to get that player on draft day. It's about bang for the buck, and performance versus expectations. And sometimes, it's all about straight-up, in-your-face domination. Here are the players selected by the fantasy staff as each NFL team's most valuable player, in the fantasy sense.
National Football Conference
NFC East by James Quintong
PLAYER Points ADP He's the MVP Because ... Miles Austin 194 N/D Austin went from being the Cowboys' No. 3 receiver to the No. 3 receiver in all of fantasy. After scoring just 13 points the first four weeks combined, he became a fantasy star with 37 points in Week 5 and 29 points in Week 6. DeSean Jackson 190 61.8 Jackson exceeded even the most optimistic preseason projections as he emerged as Donovan McNabb's favorite target, catching nine TD passes and adding one rushing and two return TDs. He registered four games with at least 20 points. Steve Smith 158 102.5 Smith outscored his more heralded namesake in Carolina thanks to a combination of big games early (19 points in Week 2, 25 in Week 4) and consistency throughout the season (12 games with at least seven points), living up to his preseason sleeper tag and shedding that of being "the other" Steve Smith. Fred Davis 82 N/D Davis proved to be an able replacement for the injured Chris Cooley late in the season, recording double-digit games from Weeks 12 to 15, setting up many teams for a run in the fantasy playoffs.
NFC North by Keith Lipscomb
PLAYER Points ADP He's the MVP Because ... Brett Favre 274 110.4 Favre provided tremendous value this season. After all, we're talking about the 17th quarterback selected (slightly ahead of Mark Sanchez), and Favre wound up fourth among all players in scoring. A nearly 5-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio helped a little. Aaron Rodgers 327 35.5 You could argue Rodgers was the best player in fantasy all year long. Only three times did Rodgers score fewer than 18 points, improving upon a great 2008 season. It'll be interesting to see how early he goes in 2010 drafts. Devin Hester 88 101.6 Hester was the best value in the fantasy wasteland that was Chicago. He battled injuries in the second half of the season, but was a useful No. 3 receiver or flex option for most of the first half. None -- -- Kevin Smith underperformed his draft position before his season-ending injury, and Calvin Johnson hardly played like a second-rounder thanks to a shaky quarterback situation. There's no need for a banquet and 50/50 raffle in Detroit this year.
NFC South by Keith Lipscomb
PLAYER Points ADP He's the MVP Because ... Robert Meachem 130 N/D Meachem led the NFL's highest-scoring team with 10 touchdowns, and finished 22nd among wide receivers. And with all due respect to Drew Brees, who lived up to his top-5 quarterback selection, Meachem went undrafted, easily making him the better value. Roddy White 174 29.5 White provided exactly what was expected of him, as the eighth wide receiver taken. He finished seventh among receivers in scoring and found the end zone a career-best 11 times. Jonathan Stewart 178 70.3 The Daily Show came up big when his fantasy teams needed him most (50 points in Weeks 16 and 17), finishing 11th overall among running backs in scoring. And to think he was selected just after LenDale White and Darren Sproles. Cadillac Williams 132 80.2 Cadillac was a strong comeback player of the year candidate and finished in the top 25 among running backs. Many felt Derrick Ward or Earnest Graham would be more dependable, but Cadillac's 16 games played and 239 touches spoke volumes.
NFC West by Pierre Becquey
PLAYER Points ADP He's the MVP Because ... Larry Fitzgerald 180 9.9 Consistency, thy name is Larry. The highest-drafted wide receiver this season lived up to expectations by turning in a top-5 scoring season, tying Randy Moss for the league lead in wide receiver touchdowns while registering his third consecutive 1,000-yard, double-digit touchdown season. Vernon Davis 168 N/D Davis led all tight ends in scoring despite being undrafted at fantasy's shallowest position. He spread the scoring around, catching touchdown passes in 10 different games, including in six of the final seven of the season. None -- -- A disappointing season in Seattle paired with a value-killing running-back-by-committee system yielded no Seahawks of lasting consequence to fantasy. The best you could hope for in fantasy was to be facing a Seahawk in your weekly matchups. Steven Jackson 180 9.9 Jackson lived up to his first-round billing by turning in a top-10 running back campaign fueled by yards, yards and more yards. Over land or through the air, Jackson tallied 10 weeks of double-digit fantasy points for a team that ranked 29th in total offense and dead last in scoring in the NFL.
American Football Conference
AFC East by James Quintong
PLAYER Points ADP He's the MVP Because ... Wes Welker 155 41.9 Welker was the model of consistency at a position full of roller-coaster performances. He had 10 games with at least eight points despite scoring no TDs after Week 7. If you're in a point-per-catch league, Welker was even bigger. Thomas Jones 221 34.2 Jones keeps proving the doubters wrong by producing on a consistent basis. Despite the early presence of Leon Washington and later presence of Shonn Greene, Jones had 13 double-digit fantasy games with three weeks better than 20 points. Ricky Williams 197 133.3 Williams was already close to being a top-10 fantasy running back before Ronnie Brown suffered a season-ending injury in Week 10. A 30-point game the week after Brown's injury cemented his status as a must-start running back. Fred Jackson 157 87.0 Jackson produced big early during Marshawn Lynch's suspension, then took over as the more valuable Bills back in the second half. Jackson scored more fantasy points in the final six weeks (80) than Lynch did all season (63).
AFC North by Keith Lipscomb
PLAYER Points ADP He's the MVP Because ... Cedric Benson 163 74.7 Benson was the 31st running back selected, despite a strong finish to 2008 and being the unquestioned starter at the onset of the season. And although he missed a few games, he still wound up 15th in scoring among running backs. Ray Rice 228 61.7 Rice finished 13th overall in scoring, after being the 24th running back to come off the board. It's scary to think how many more points he could've scored if Willis McGahee hadn't stolen so many goal-line touches. Rashard Mendenhall 165 141.2 Mendenhall never allowed Willie Parker to get his starting gig back. After just seven carries the first three weeks, Mendenhall scored in double figures in nine of the final 13 games. Not too shabby for the 54th running back drafted. Jerome Harrison 137 N/D Harrison went undrafted, yet his late-season emergence actually helped some owners win fantasy championships. Until Harrison scored 85 points in the final three weeks, the Browns were totally devoid of a viable fantasy MVP candidate.
AFC South by James Quintong
PLAYER Points ADP He's the MVP Because ... Joseph Addai 182 54.7 Addai quietly finished as a top-10 running back even though he was the 23rd running back taken on average to start the season. He had 12 games with double-digit fantasy points (and two with at least 20 points) despite never rushing for 100 yards in any contest. Matt Schaub 269 63.9 Schaub stayed healthy all season and produced the numbers many expected of him "if only he could play 16 games." After struggling in Week 1 against the Jets, he had four games with at least 20 points in Weeks 2 to 6 and nine 300-yard passing days. Chris Johnson 329 8.0 Johnson more than exceeded his already lofty expectations as he was the top-scoring player in all of fantasy. He had four games with at least 35 fantasy points, highlighted by a 45-point outburst in Week 2 (the second-best game all season). Mike Sims-Walker 120 N/D While Maurice Jones-Drew did his usual thing, Sims-Walker went mostly undrafted but eventually emerged as the Jaguars' No. 1 receiver and outscored established wideouts such as Terrell Owens, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Roy Williams. Sims-Walker had seven games with double-digit points and three 100-yard performances.
AFC West by Pierre Becquey
PLAYER Points ADP He's the MVP Because ... Vincent Jackson 166 50.2 Jackson was a top-10 receiver despite being drafted as a clear No. 2 guy. He got his teams off to a fast start with double-digit production in seven of his first eight games and had a monster 22-point effort in Week 15. Brandon Marshall 166 45.2 Marshall's draft stock fell due to his preseason antics, but once he was on the field, he was clearly the Broncos' most consistent fantasy playmaker. He scored double-digit points in eight of his 15 games, highlighted by his 32-point, 21-catch performance in Week 14. None -- -- We seriously considered Sebastian Janikowski here, but even he wasn't a startable option from week to week due to how bad this offense was. Not even Zach Miller was consistent enough to be startable from week to week. Jamaal Charles 177 N/D In essentially half a season as a starter, the undrafted Charles managed to become fantasy's 12th-highest-scoring running back He scored at least 17 points in six of the season's final eight games and led all scorers in Week 17 with 37 points.
Pierre Becquey, Keith Lipscomb and James Quintong are editors for ESPN.com fantasy.
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