For most fantasy football owners, another one is in the books. League champs knew who they were as soon as Week 16 ended, but the polls have just closed for the individual hardware. It's time to pay tribute to the players who helped to make this season a success - or, in some cases, a colossal failure.
RB Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings: Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and some other signal callers produced the kind of numbers that guide fantasy teams to the Promised Land. But that's just it: Plenty of quarterbacks hung out in the same fantasy-points neighborhood in 2012. Peterson stood out among his peers, even distancing himself from the rusher many considered this year's top overall choice: the Houston Texans' Arian Foster.
Dez won leagues for some
The sixth-year running back did it with the help of an improved offensive line, while facing the same kind of overloaded fronts that helped to make him a disappointment in 2011. And it'd be one thing if Peterson put up these ridiculous numbers (2,113 total yards, 6.0 yards per carry and 11 touchdowns) once he was a couple of years removed from reconstructive knee surgery. But he tore his ACL last year - in Week 16! He shouldn't even be eligible for the Comeback Player of the Year Award.
There are simply not enough superlatives to describe AD and what he accomplished in 2012. To those who were unwaveringly committed (like, second-round committed) to the other-worldly being (not human - can't be) who ended up as fantasy's top running back: We salute you.
Comeback Fantasy Player of the Year
QB Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos: It took Jamaal Charles a few games to dispel doubts about the condition of his surgically repaired knee, and he was MIA in a handful of weeks, or he might've taken home this trophy. But in case you've forgotten, because of multiple neck surgeries that put his career in jeopardy, Manning last played in an NFL contest in 2010 - for a different organization. Most fantasy drafters were afraid to trust him as their QB1, so the former Indianapolis Colt turned out to be one of the best bargains of the year because he ended up, once again, as a top-five player at his position.
Unsung Fantasy Hero
RB Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins: Mike Shanahan finally rekindled some of his sixth-round magic in the form of this decisively humble Florida Atlantic product. Morris put an end to the curse of Terrell Davis, aka "Shanahanigans," by putting a stranglehold on the RB1 position and never letting go on his way to 1,413 yards and 10 touchdowns. He saved his best work for the stretch run of fantasy's regular season and playoff period.
Breakout Fantasy Player
WR Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos: Bill Belichick's resurfacing commitment to the running game helped to make New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley an every-week fantasy starter. The second-year back amassed 1,189 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground.
Thomas, with the aid of his new quarterback, entered a new realm of receiver-hood, though. He caught 87 of Manning's passes for 1,312 yards and nine scores easily outpacing his marks of his first two seasons, which were marred by injuries and the quarterbacking of Tim Tebow.
Fantasy Postseason Savior
WR Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys: Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton saved his best for last. His 1,226 yards and 10 touchdowns, with one interception, passing and 313 yards and four scores rushing from Week 11 on were enough to catapult him into the top five at his position at season's end. The timing of that stretch as well as its impact certainly turned out to be enough to justify the cost of a top-25 draft choice, and that seemed unlikely midway through the season.
Only Calvin Johnson came close to rivaling the production of Bryant from Week 10 through Week 16, however. Tony Romo's new No. 1 target saved some seasons and then won some titles with his 46 receptions, 808 yards and 10 touchdowns in those seven games. He scored in seven straight and posted multiple TDs three times. And he played in the last three contests with a hairline fracture in one of his fingers; the Cowboys had feared the injury would end his season.
Fantasy Golden Booter
PK Blair Walsh, Minnesota Vikings: He finished just behind the New York Giants' Lawrence Tynes (33) and tied with the Atlanta Falcons' Matt Bryant (32) for field goals made. Walsh, however, connected on all nine of his attempts from 50-plus, shaming the Oakland Raiders' strong-legged Sebastian Janikowski (6-for-9). The rookie kicker missed only three three-pointers all season, and the distance bonuses he racked up put him over the top.
Fantasy IDP MVP
Spread your wings and ... plop
DE J.J. Watt, Houston Texans: His 20.5 sacks placed him one ahead of San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith. Watt finished with more total tackles as well, and his performance in most contests helped the second-year offense disrupter produce LB-like numbers in DL spots everywhere. The Wisconsin product edged out rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly of the Carolina Panthers because of the distinct advantage he gave his owners week after week.
RB Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers: Stafford was on plenty of ballots for this award, too, but in the end, Mathews' history of repeated disappointment, however unfairly - because it's an annual award, not a Lifetime Lack of Achievement honor - swayed voters in his favor. Let's face it: If you owned this third-year running back, either before or after he broke his collarbone (the first time), you felt thoroughly fleeced ... and probably cursed.
Chad Johnson Award
RB Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Before he was Ochocinco, he was pretty good, although his fantasy production often came in chunks. As did that of Martin, the rookie runner who proved to be everything the Bucs hoped he'd be. Unfortunately, of the 274 PPR points the Boise St. product earned this season, almost exactly one-third of them came in his combined Week 8 and Week 9 efforts. Hey, Muscle Hamster: Your average of about 14 points per in your other 13 games ain't bad, but next time, spread it out a little!
Fake Fantasy Trendsetter
TE Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints: Rob Gronkowski's broken forearm prevented him from affirming that he warranted a top-20 fantasy selection prior to this season. Graham, however, came up with a lone 100-yard effort and didn't hit paydirt in seven different contests.
In his defense, a wrist injury nagged him for a portion of the season and likely contributed to his league-leading total of drops. But the third-year pass-catcher is short on football experience and has dealt with those problems before. Although Graham's average for fantasy points per game placed him in the top five at this position, Graham clearly didn't provide the advantage that his eager takers expected.
Donovan McNabb Award
QB Eli Manning, New York Giants: Some quarterbacks have masqueraded as something close to the overused "elite" before they nose-dived, dragging fantasy teams down with them. The San Diego Chargers' Philip Rivers watched his draft stock dip because of his precipitous decline in 2011, so expectations for him were already tapering. And folks were far too trusting of Matthew Stafford after he finally delivered his first full - and magnificent - season for the Detroit Lions, but he has (hopefully) many bright years ahead of him.
But Manning was a high-end QB2 for a few seasons and a top-10 fantasy passer in each of the past three years before tanking it in 2012. In terms of fantasy points per game, he finished outside the top 20. Maybe Mario Manningham and Jake Ballard were just that good.
WR Titus Young, Detroit Lions: Many fantasy owners had high hopes for the second-year wide receiver who appeared to be physically ready to take another step toward fantasy dependability in Detroit's explosive offense. Young Sr. - as the back of his jersey read shortly after the 23-year-old became a father this past summer - proved that, psychologically, he still has a ways to go, however.
He was virtually nonexistent until Week 7, when Nate Burleson broke a leg and ended up on IR. Young was the fantasy shebang for a couple of weeks because of this newfound opportunity, but he failed to capitalize on it in the long run because of poor preparation and a lack of familiarity with his role. It culminated with his benching for lining up incorrectly on several occasions in a Week 11 loss and his eventual placement on IR for a supposed knee injury.
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.