Congratulations to all who rolled to championship glory in CFB fantasy play this season. Your faithful author was not among them, but the sun shall shine once more, at some point, in the future. In this space, we’ll hand out our awards for the best (and otherwise) fantasy performers for the campaign.
The “We Were Wrong” Award (for quarterback) -- Gardner Minshew, Washington State
Over the summer, we repeatedly threw shade on Gardner Minshew, despite living in Pullman, Washington. Our take at the time -- that Minshew had not performed to any notable degree while at East Carolina (24/11 TD/INT ratio combined in 2016 and 2017), that he seemed content to transfer to Alabama’s bench, that the quarterbacking competition was not settled in late August. We opted to steer away from Minshew in the bulk of drafts. Our bad. Minshew threw for 4,477 yards with a 36/9 TD/INT ratio in very nearly leading WSU to the Pac-12 Championship Game. He finished the season trailing only D’wayne Haskins, D’Eriq King and Kyler Murray in points among quarterbacks with default Fantrax scoring. Murray (who led all quarterbacks) would also fit, here. Yikes.
The “Steal of the Draft” Award (for quarterback) -- Cole McDonald, Hawaii
Rotoworld colleague and friend Thor Nystrom nailed this one, Minshew would have cost you a first or second round pick in most drafts. McDonald was still there in the mid-to-late rounds, and finished two spots back of Minshew in points. Taylor Cornelius slides between the two, just by-the-by. McDonald crushed many an owner after they had gone to bed, playing in late game after late game while putting up brilliant statistics. He ended the regular season throwing for 3,338 yards with a 32/8 TD/INT ratio. McDonald finished out with 452 passing yards and three touchdowns in Saturday’s win over San Diego State, the perfect cap for owners who played on the same hunch as Nystrom.
The “I Don’t Want to Talk About It” Award (for quarterback) -- Shawn Robinson, TCU
Sigh sigh sigh. We were all over Robinson in the summer, and that was a mistake. By midseason, we were benching him for the likes of David Pindell -- no regrets, there -- and by season’s end he was no longer even playing due to a shoulder injury which cut his season short. Robinson put up 308 yards passing against Ohio State on Sept. 15, but there would be no ascendency off that performance, and he finished his seven-game season throwing for just 1,326 yards with a 9/8 TD/INT ratio. Will this stop us from buying low on Robinson next summer? Hopefully?
The “Least Valuable Player” Award (for quarterback) -- Khalil Tate, Arizona
They say that some birds are too bright to be caged, but Kevin Sumlin believes that bright birds should just be spray-painted gray. There was no more terrifying fantasy crumbling than that of Tate. One year after he electrified late night TV with 1,411 yards rushing, plus 12 touchdowns as a runner, he ends the 2018 season having rushed for 225 yards and two touchdowns. He did throw for 26 touchdowns, but you weren’t drafting Tate No. 1 overall as a passer. As is, Feleipe’ Franks outscored the Arizona gunslinger. Bet Ken Niumatalolo’s triple-option isn’t looking too bad right now, is it Mr. Tate?
The “Most Valuable Player” Award (for quarterback) -- Kyler Murray, Oklahoma
You could make a strong argument for OSU’s Dwayne Haskins, here, as Haskins finished the regular season with eight games of at least three passing touchdowns (four with at least five) and four 400-yard passing games. 41 touchdown passes on the year doesn’t look too bad, but Haskins was essentially a non-factor as a rusher, managing 127 yards and four scores on the ground. Murray finished four touchdowns short of Haskins as a passer, but far outshone him as a runner, putting up 853 yards rushing with 10 touchdowns on the ground. He threw for at least three touchdown passes in all but two games this season. Essentially, he put up the kinds of numbers we hoped for from Khalil Tate.
The “We Were Wrong” Award (for running back) -- Trayveon Williams, Texas A&M
Coming into the year, we viewed Williams as a boom-bust talent who fell on the bust side more often that not. Kevin Sumlin doesn’t just mismanage his all-world quarterbacks -- he had Kyler Murray at one point, remember -- but does likewise with his all-world running backs. That was certainly the case with Williams, who blossomed under Jimbo Fisher’s watch, rushing for a career-best 1,524 yards, plus 15 touchdowns. And he did it consistently, finishing over 100 yards rushing in 8-of-12 games. We avoided him in drafts completely, and we were wrong.
The “Game-breaking Waiver Wire Claim” Award (for running back) -- Jermar Jefferson, Oregon State
Jefferson began the year behind Artavis Pierce, but Pierce was knocked out with an elbow injury against Southern Utah in Week 2, opening the door for the three-star freshman. He ran through that door and did not look back, putting together seven 100-yard rushing performances on his way to a 1,380-yard season. That he did this with a bad Oregon State team, one which was usually behind double digits and could never truly lean on the run, makes his performance all the more impressive.
The “I Don’t Want to Talk About It” Award (for running back) -- Stephen Carr, USC
Oh good, Clay Helton is coming back. Sweet. Stephen Carr was buried under his watch this season, but we’re sure everything will be great in 2019. Unfortunately, Carr crept as high as late in the first round in some drafts, and did nothing to make good on that faith. He received just 81 carries on the year while battling occasional injury, with those 81 carries good for all of 384 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He did not have an even remotely startable game after the end of September. Drafting Carr ended up sinking teams. Yeah Clay Helton!
The “Least Valuable Player” Award (for running back) -- Cam Akers, Florida State
After setting the FSU freshman record for rushing with his 1,025 yards in 2017, Akers came out to disappoint fantasy owners the world over this season, finishing with 704 yards and six touchdowns while averaging just 4.4 YPC. He rushed for more than 100 yards once. He rushed for more than 65 yards just four times. Florida State was playing with a laughably bad offensive line this year, and we certainly factor that in. The disappointment, here, comes not just in the lack of production, but also in the perceived upside. Entering the season, we would not have been surprised if Akers had posted top-five fantasy running back numbers.
The “Most Valuable Player” Award (for running back) -- Darrell Henderson, Memphis
Henderson could have been had long after Akers was off the board, and boy howdy, did he make it worth your while if you picked him up. His 2018 season heading into the AAC Championship Game against UCF, currently has him up to 1,699 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns. He went over 165 rushing yards in seven games, with multiple touchdowns likewise scored in seven contests. Players such as Jonathan Taylor and Devin Singletary ended up mostly living up to their high draft positions, but no running back provided the kind of draft position coupled with insane production like Henderson.
The “We Were Wrong” Award (for wide receiver) -- David Sills, West Virginia
To be clear, we didn’t dislike Sills at the right price. We did, however, expect his touchdown totals to normalize after he scored 18 times in 2017. It dropped off, but barely. Over the course of 12 games, the former quarterback found the end zone 15 times this year. Coming into the season, we would not have been surprised if Sills had finished with low double-digit or even single-digit touchdowns. Nope. And he has scored his 15 even with Gary Jennings bumping his 2017 tally from one to 13 this season. That tells you how the WVU passing offense has been humming in 2018.
Boykins was in danger of being erased off the face of the earth ala Equanimeous St. Brown with Brandon Wimbush starting at quarterback. The wideout opened the year logging one catch in three of his first four games. Then Ian Book came in to save the day. Boykin responded with back-to-back 100-yard performances after Book took over and posted a string of six consecutive games with a touchdown grab after Wimbush was deposed. Just about the only thing dousing his season by degrees -- beyond Notre Dame not finding their starting quarterback for a month -- was the fact that he finished in relatively lukewarm fashion, failing to top 80 yards receiving in any of his last five games, with three of those contests seeing him under 60 yards receiving. His fade coincided with fantasy playoffs in many cases.
The “I Don’t Want to Talk About It” Award (for wide receiver) -- Ty Lee, Middle Tennessee
Lee was one of our top targets in the Group of 5. We were hoping he would step into the big, empty shoes vacated by Richie James. Instead, Lee spent most of the season treading water aimlessly. He registered a total of 50 yards receiving over his first three games, and while the pace quickened by very slow degrees, it still took until Nov. 2 for Lee to post his first game over 80 yards. Unless you hung onto him as a bench stash or made a keen pickup off the waiver, Lee’s long-awaited surge (343 yards receiving over his last three games) came after most owners had moved on to other options.
The “Least Valuable Player” Award (for wide receiver) -- T.J. Vasher, Texas Tech
We strongly considered putting Clemson’s Tee Higgins in this doghouse, but Higgins was at least a frequent contributor with seven games of at least four receptions (plus three games over 100 yards). Vasher, on the other hand, was less than that. He was waylaid by injury at points, and failed to do much when healthy. Didn’t help that his quarterbacks room was in complete disarray due to the extended absences of Alan Bowman and McLane Carter. Some receivers -- such as TCU’s Jalen Reagor -- will continue to post numbers even as the team devolves around them. Vasher did not do that. Instead, he ended his season having failed to turn in even one 100-yard game. All but three of his games this season went for more than 70 yards receiving. Vasher’s year-end receiving line? 54-687-7.
The “Most Valuable Player” Award (for wide receiver) -- Andy Isabella, UMass
We did not expect to be typing that name preseason, but here we are. Isabella not only played a huge part in helping parties to win their Week 12 championship games -- he caught 15 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns against Georgia (Georgia!) on Nov. 17 -- his 9-303-2 performance against Liberty on Nov. 3 (good for 51 fantasy points in standard scoring) came at the perfect time for his owners who needed a boost to get into the playoffs. Isabella logged at least 170 yards receiving in five of his last seven games. He caught 73 passes in that space. As much as we love the Rondale Moores and Laviska Shenaults of the world, no receiver did more down the stretch to win owners titles than Isabella.