James Morris hails from Rio Rancho, NM and has been playing fantasy sports for well over a decade. Not only does he write the Bengals fantasy section, but he also does the Jacksonville Jaguars and San Diego Chargers fantasy sections, as well as the Indiana Pacers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz fantasy basketball sections in the NBA.
Every year we have the players we think will shine, the players we think will have an off year, and then there are the players that nobody thought about who end up being front line starters on fantasy teams. Sometimes you can have the best draft you've ever had and still lose because the players you got didn't pan out, while there is always some guy who finishes the draft with a so-so team and somehow, he ends up winning the league title because his guys got hot at just the right time. Let's see who won, who lost, and who came from the end of the bench to emerge as a starting fantasy option this season.
(I know there are still some leagues that go through Week 17 (I'm in one too), so if you need help with your lineups this week, *just email me. All stats will be as of Week 16, which is the standard final week for fantasy football.)*
Joe Montana Award (QB Stud): Aaron Rodgers: I know, most of you thought you would see Drew Brees' name here right? Did you know Rodgers had 4,199 passing yards, 314 rushing yards, 33 total TDs, and three 2-point conversions? I worry about the 50 sacks (most in the NFL), but he managed to hold the interception total to just seven and Rodgers finished as a top 3 fantasy QB this year.
Ryan Leaf Award (QB Bust): Chad Pennington: After throwing for 3,653 yards, 19 TDs, and rushing for another in 2008, Pennington entered 2009 as a solid QB2. What happened was a season-ending shoulder injury that sidelined him after the third game of the season and transformed Miami into a wildcat offensive team. Injury or not, Pennington didn't live up to the 2008 hype and he was a dud in fantasy leagues around the world.
Tom Brady Award (Unknown Star): Chad Henne: Henne came into the season as a backup, but quickly found himself on the front lines due to an injury to Pennington. While Miami mostly ran the ball this season, Henne still found a way to throw for 2,738 yards and amassed 12 touchdowns on the season.
Walter Payton Award (RB Stud): Chris Johnson: Johnson finished the fantasy season with 1,872 rushing yards, 483 receiving yards, and 14 TDs, ranking him No. 1 in almost any format for RBs. Johnson benefited from a dismal Tennessee Titans offense that ranked 28th in offensive production, and when you have no reliable QB and no WRs to speak of, an All-Pro player like this will shine.
Lawrence Phillips Award (RB Bust): Brian Westbrook: I'm not a big fan of Westbrook when it comes to fantasy leagues because the guy has never played a full 16-game schedule in his career and he has just two 1,000+ yard seasons in his career. He is overhyped in my opinion.
Marion Motley Award (Unknown Star): Ray Rice: Rice was someone I had my eye on during the preseason, but the three-headed best Baltimore had at RB worried a lot of owners into letting Rice slide until Round 11. Rice had some early season issues with Willis McGahee vulturing TDs from him, but then he went on to rush for 1,269 yards with eight touchdowns.
Jerry Rice Award (WR Stud): Andre Johnson: Johnson has 1,504 receiving yards, nine touchdowns, and a 2-point conversion on his resume this season, not to mention the 95 receptions. Johnson is easily a top 2-3 fantasy WR in any format and he has given his owners reason to celebrate this year.
Charles Rodgers Award (WR Bust): Dwayne Bowe: The Chiefs brought in Matt Cassel this season to bolster their passing attack, and with Bowe already in the fold, big things were expected heading into the 2009 season. Bowe managed to catch just 46 passes for 583 yards and four TDs. It didn't help that he was suspended for four games, but no matter the reason, he was a complete bust this season.
Derrick Mason Award (Unknown Star): Sidney Rice: Rice was somewhat of a bust before the season started, having just 46 receptions for 537 yards in his first two seasons. This year Rice got future Hall of Fame QB Brett Favre to toss him balls and he responded by racking up 77 receptions for 1,200 yards and six TDs. Rice is Favre's go-to man and he is paying off tenfold for his fantasy owners.
Kellen Winslow Award (TE Stud): Dallas Clark: Clark is always the No. 1 TE taken, so his stud status isn't exactly astonishing. When you have Peyton Manning as your QB you can expect 93 receptions for 1,054 yards and 10 TDs each and every season. Tight end is truly a feast or famine position for fantasy football, so Clark is more like a fourth WR than a TE.
David Lafluer Award (TE Bust): Chris Cooley: Cooley was expected to be a TE stud since he was all Washington really had to rely on in the passing game and Clinton Portis is getting older by the game. What Cooley did was put up 29 receptions for 332 yards and two TDs before suffering a season-ending injury.
Russ Francis Award (Unknown Star): Jermichael Finley: Finley caught fire in Week 11 as he managed 34 receptions for 382 yards and three TDs. When you can get a TE off the waiver wire and have him average 5-6 catches a game, 60-65 yards, and sprinkle in a touchdown here and there, you have yourself a prize waiver wire addition.
70s Pittsburgh Steelers Award (Defense Stud): New Orleans Saints Defense: The Saints offense is well known, but nobody expected the Saints to take the NFL by storm with their defense. Darren Sharper is tied for the NFL lead in interceptions (9) and Jonathan Vilma is tied for eighth in tackles with 87. Next stop, Super Bowl!
90s Buffalo Bills Award (Defense Bust): Chicago Bears Defense: The Bears have been known for their defensive prowess over this decade, but a season-ending injury to Brian Urlacher proved to be more than this team could overcome. Chicago has allowed the 12th-most points on defense (337); they are 22nd in interceptions, and tied for seventh for tackles with 842. The higher number for tackles isn't a good thing since that means they are out on the field more.
'04 Carolina Panthers Award (Unknown Star): Denver Broncos: The Broncos defense didn't come into the season as a top defense, and they are actually still on the waiver wire in many leagues despite being a solid top 8-10 fantasy defense this season. They have allowed just 280 points (eighth in NFL) while ranking fifth in YPG allowed at just 301.1. Why they are still on the waiver wire in a lot of leagues is a mystery.
It has been an honor and a privilege to work with the Bengals this season and playing in the Jaguars Yahoo league. Thank you all for reading the articles this season and I hope that I helped you reach the top of the fantasy mountain we all try and climb every season.