- AJ Mass, Fantasy
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The cream has risen to the top. While the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers look forward to their Super Bowl showdown, we here at ESPN.com wanted to take one last look back at the 2010 fantasy football season to see which players deserve the praise and admiration of their peers. In other words, it is once again time to hand out the ESPN.com All-Pro honors to those deserving individuals who had the most fantasy impact this season. We're not talking about "value" picks, mind you, although certainly some of the players who made our list were nowhere on the fantasy radar way back on draft day. We're simply recognizing those players who put up the cumulative stats that merit their inclusion in the following list of the "best of the best" of 2010 as determined by ESPN standard scoring.
Take a look at those who climbed highest on the mountain, the talented performers who helped to provide the ever-elusive answer to the oft-asked question of what constituted the "perfect lineup" in fantasy football for the 2010 season:
Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles (Average Draft Position: undrafted): Nobody could have seen this coming. Thrust into the starting job in Philadelphia when Kevin Kolb left in Week 1 with a concussion, Vick immediately took fantasy football leagues by storm, throwing for six scores and rushing for almost 60 yards per game over the first three weeks. Even though he got hurt himself in Week 4 and ended up sitting out three games through Week 9, he still managed to outscore all comers at the quarterback position, thanks in large part to a six-touchdown outing (four passing, two rushing) in Week 10 that made him a must-start the rest of the way. As far as fantasy was concerned in 2010, Michael put the "Vick" in victory.
Arian Foster, Houston Texans (ADP: 49.3): Foster exploded out of the gate with a 231-yard, three-touchdown game against the Indianapolis Colts, and seemed to follow a feast-or-famine approach to the rest of the season. Foster had eight games of more than 100 yards and eight others in which he failed to reach the century mark, but with seven scores in those "subpar" outings, not to mention his 66 receptions on the season, he was able to easily obliterate his peers. Foster finished the season with 81 more fantasy points (in ESPN standard leagues) than the second-place running back.
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings (ADP: 2.3): Peterson claims his second straight All-Pro honor despite having his worst rushing season in the NFL. That just goes to show that, even in a down year, he's still head and shoulders above the rest. Peterson's first half of 2010 was incredibly consistent as he scored seven times in the first eight games of the season, but a sprained right ankle and a bruised thigh severely limited his second-half playing time. If not for a three-touchdown day against the Buffalo Bills in Week 13, he might have fallen to second-team status, but that didn't happen, and odds are we'll find his name here again next season.
Brandon Lloyd, Denver Broncos (ADP: undrafted): Lloyd performed well when the Broncos were throwing the ball for more than 400 yards per game early in the season. He still posted some flex-worthy stats in games when Kyle Orton couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. When the reins of the offense were turned over to Tim Tebow late in the season, it was Lloyd who received close to 36 percent of all targets and once again became a near lock for a double-digit fantasy day.
Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs (ADP: 63.7): From start to finish, it wasn't the best of seasons for Bowe. He was invisible early, but from Week 6 through Week 12 he had no peer, catching 49 balls, 13 of those in the end zone. Sure, he pulled another vanishing act after that, thanks to Champ Bailey and a ton of added attention from opposing secondaries, but his 153 yards and a score in Week 16 likely left his owners with a good taste in their mouths ... from that championship champagne.
Flex position (next best running back or wide receiver)
Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs (ADP: 32.9): Even Todd Haley couldn't keep Charles off this list. Despite being locked into a time-share with Thomas Jones -- and getting the short end of the stick in that battle (230 carries versus 245 for TJ) -- Charles rushed for almost 600 more yards than his teammate, and averaged an insane 6.4 yards per carry. Though the platoon drove his owners crazy, Charles managed to sneak into the first-team lineup even though he topped 16 carries only three times all season.
Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys (ADP: 63.4): Once Jason Garrett was given full authority on the sideline, Witten blossomed. Unlike the past few seasons, Witten found the end zone, scoring six times over the last six weeks of the season. He also became the only man at his position to top the 1,000-yard threshold in 2010, although some of that has to do with Antonio Gates (see below) getting injured.
Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland Raiders (ADP: undrafted): Kickers rarely have a ton of fantasy impact, but Sea Bass was a clear exception to this rule in 2010. With a dozen field goals of more than 40 yards and eight weeks in which his offense required his services on three or more extra points -- including for an unheard-of eight touchdowns in Week 7 -- if there was a kicker to hang your hat on, Janikowski's head was an obvious bull's-eye.
Pittsburgh Steelers (ADP: 111.4): Five games holding the opposition to single-digit scoring and 12 games with multiple turnovers forced, and there's really no arguing why the Steel Curtain earned top honors for fantasy owners in 2010. It's hard to imagine holding teams to 62.8 yards rushing a game, and it's worth noting that all three second-team running backs faced the Steelers, which likely is the reason each of them is not a first-teamer.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (ADP: 9.2): Last season's No. 1 quarterback, Rodgers outshone Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, and might have held on to the fantasy signal-caller's crown had a concussion not knocked him out of action for the bulk of the fantasy playoffs. Still, if your team survived his absence in Weeks 14 and 15, he proved his greatness with a Week 16, 400-yard, four-touchdown performance against the New York Giants that may have locked up many a fantasy league championship.
Peyton Hillis, Cleveland Browns (ADP: undrafted): When Hillis scored in Week 1, few people took notice. When he scored again in Week 2, again, not many people cared. When he found pay dirt again in Week 3, and hung 144 yards on the Baltimore Ravens, a few eyes were opened. Another 100-yard game and a touchdown in Week 4 and Hillis was suddenly a fantasy darling. He did end up faltering down the stretch, failing to find the end zone from Week 13 on, but that was more a factor of his not having any help. Certainly if the Browns can offer up some other offensive weapons in 2011, a return to All-Pro for "the other Peyton" isn't out of the question.
Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans (ADP: 1.4): Last year, CJ2K ruled the fantasy world. This season, although Johnson failed to crack even 1,500 rushing yards, he still gave his owners 11 touchdowns on the ground and cracked the top 5 at running back. Considering the Titans had a laughable passing game, even having to start Rusty Smith at quarterback one week, we're actually surprised that Johnson performed as well as he did. Maybe he'll lose his overall No. 1 draft position next season, but he's clearly still among the elite at his position.
Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons (ADP: 24.2): White was as reliable a receiver as there was in the NFL this season, leading the league with 115 catches. Certainly, it would have helped to have a No. 2 option to take some of the defensive attention away -- Michael Jenkins' 41 catches were a sad consolation prize among the Falcons' wideouts -- but to be able to basically lock in 7-for-70 and the chance at a touchdown? That's fantasy currency you simply need to hold on to as long as you can.
Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers (ADP: 31.0): Jennings didn't top 100 yards until Week 6, but still caught important passes, as he had three scores in the Packers' first five games. Once the Packers got into a rhythm, Jennings was unstoppable. From Weeks 11-13, he had 393 receiving yards and five scores, and if not for the injury to Aaron Rodgers that took the air out of the tandem's balloon, the dynamic duo would surely both have taken home first-team honors.
Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders (ADP: 107.9): The man they call Run DMC may not have been the most consistent running back this season. In fact, with 14 yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 11 and only 2 yards versus the Miami Dolphins in Week 12, he was oftentimes downright illin'. Yet those who had faith were more than handsomely rewarded come the fantasy playoffs as McFadden scored 38 fantasy points on 209 total yards and three scores in Week 14, and rushed for 119 yards against the Broncos in Week 15. When it counted, few backs walked that way.
Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers (ADP: 44.5): Gates was not just good this past season -- he was scary good. If not for a foot injury that essentially cut his season in half, Gates might well have scored more fantasy points than running back Adrian Peterson! Before he got hurt, Gates had more than 800 yards receiving and nine scores and though he fought through the pain to get another 100 yards and a score in late November/early December, it was clear that Gates was not the same. What a shame! This could have been one for the ages.
David Akers, Philadelphia Eagles (ADP: 133.5): The Eagles' longtime place-kicker earns his second straight second-team honors after a season in which he made 84.2 percent of his field goals, including 86 percent from inside 50 yards. Clearly, you don't keep an NFL kicking job for 12 years without having a high level of consistency. He was helped by a stretch from Weeks 7-14 in which he scored in double digits (ESPN standard scoring) in each game, including four contests with at least four field goals made.
New England Patriots (ADP: 147.7): It was an opportunistic unit that had eight touchdowns. Down the stretch, the Patriots forced 23 turnovers from Week 11 on, turning what was an otherwise ordinary unit into a solid fantasy play. Outside of a Green Bay Packers offense that scored 27 points against the Patriots, the other four teams that faced this unit in the last five weeks of the season combined to put just 20 points on the scoreboard. Not too shabby.
AJ Mass is a fantasy baseball, football and college basketball analyst for ESPN.com. His book, "How Fantasy Sports Explains the World" will be released in August. You can e-mail him here.
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