- The best players at every position this fantasy football season.
Fantasy football awards season continues at SI.com with our positional MVPs and LVPs. In this column, we look at the MVPs at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end. Total production, week-to-week consistency, average draft-day price, and playoff performance were all taken into account, though the last one was more of a tiebreaker. A fantasy MVP can be taken first overall, like Todd Gurley, or much later, like Patrick Mahomes. No matter where he came off the board, he had to deliver a consistent floor with several blow-up weeks. All four players herein did just that.
Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
I hate to repeat myself, but, well, I just sang a paean to Patrick Mahomes in the column on our Return On Investment All-Star Team last week. If you don’t mind, I’m going to borrow from it liberally here.
Mahomes was the 16th quarterback off the board in a typical draft, going in the middle of the 10th round in 12-team leagues. At his own position, he was a later pick on average than Jimmy Garoppolo, Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan and Jared Goff. Among all players, he had a lower average draft position than Ronald Jones, Sterling Shepard, David Njoku, the Jacksonville defense and, wait for it, Kelvin Benjamin.
All Mahomes did this year was become the second quarterback in NFL history with a 5,000-yard, 50-touchdown season, joining Peyton Manning in the record books. He added 272 yards and two scores on the ground, ending the year with 427.1 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues, the single greatest fantasy season ever by a quarterback, besting Manning by 7.1 points. Mahomes outscored fantasy’s No. 2 quarterback, Matt Ryan, by 76.7 points, or 4.79 points per game. That’s more than a touchdown better per game in standard-scoring leagues. His lowest output of the season came against the Jaguars in Week 5, when he threw for 313 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions, while running for 13 yards and a score, totaling 17.82 points. Not including the meaningless Week 17, he had 14 QB1 weeks, including nine in the top five, and four where he was the top-scoring quarterback. Again, 15 quarterbacks and 114 total players were taken ahead of Mahomes in typical drafts. Even if he was a top-five quarterback by ADP, he would’ve been this position’s MVP. The fact that he also provided a monster return on investment made him a no-brainer selection.
Honorable Mention: Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck, Deshaun Watson, Drew Brees
Christian McCaffrey, Panthers
There are great arguments for Todd Gurley and Saquon Barkley here, and good ones for Alvin Kamara and Ezekiel Elliott. You know one thing all those players have in common, though? They were taken ahead of Christian McCaffrey in typical drafts. McCaffrey came off the board in the middle of the second round in 12-team leagues, meaning many fantasy owners paired him with someone like Barkley, Melvin Gordon or DeAndre Hopkins. McCaffrey then finished the season second at his position in PPR leagues and third in half-PPR and standard formats. He was a top-five player at a second-round price, the perfect formula for creating a fantasy football MVP.
McCaffrey had a uniquely incredible season, running for 1,098 yards on 219 carries, catching 107 passes for 867 yards, and scoring 13 touchdowns. His 107 receptions were a new single-season record for running backs, breaking the mark previously set by Matt Forte. He became the sixth back in NFL history with 1,000 rushing yards and 800 receiving yards in the same season, joining Marshall Faulk (who did it three times), Roger Craig, Steven Jackson, Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson and Forte.
What put McCaffrey over the top was his performance in the fantasy playoffs. Gurley got shut down by the Bears in Week 14 and missed Week 16 due to injury. Barkley was quiet in Week 14 and Week 15. Kamara did next to nothing in Week 14. McCaffrey, however, was among the top-scoring backs in the league all three weeks, totaling 217 rushing yards, 26 receptions, 182 receiving yards, and two touchdowns. He scored at least 20 points all three weeks, and likely delivered many championships to fantasy owners he carried to the playoffs in the first place.
Honorable Mention: Gurley, Barkley, Kamara, Elliott
DeAndre Hopkins, Texans
This one was a tough choice, too, with at least seven other receivers having a solid claim to the throne. Hopkins, however, came out ahead for much the same reasons that McCaffrey did. First, he scored 337.5 points in PPR leagues, fifth-most among all non-quarterbacks, trailing Barkley, McCaffrey, Gurley and Kamara. McCaffrey was the only one of the four coming off the board later than Hopkins in typical drafts. As we just discussed, it was entirely possible to pair Hopkins and McCaffrey this summer, and those who did likely head into 2019 as fantasy champions.
Hopkins caught 115 passes for 1,572 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, numbers that ranked second, second and fourth, respectively, among receivers. He was the only receiver in the league in the top five in all three categories, and that sort of consistency across all three scoring inputs for receivers provided him with the highest weekly floor at the position. He scored at least 12.4 points in PPR leagues every week and fell short of double digits just once in half-PPR scoring. He had a touchdown or 100 yards in 11 of 16 games, and posted 20 or more points in PPR leagues seven times.
Finally, Hopkins showed up in the fantasy playoffs. He caught four passes for 36 yards and a touchdown in Week 14, 10 passes for 170 yards and two scores in Week 15, and nine balls for 104 yards in Week 16. He was the No. 1 receiver in PPR leagues, and No. 2 receiver in half-PPR and standard formats.
Honorable Mention: Tyreek Hill, Julio Jones, Antonio Brown. Davante Adams, Michael Thomas, Adam Thielen, Juju Smith-Schuster
BELLER: Fantasy Football 2018 LVPs
Travis Kelce, Chiefs
George Kittle and Zach Ertz had excellent seasons, but there was really just one choice here. Kelce was second to Kittle in yards, second to Ertz in receptions, and second to Eric Ebron in touchdowns but he put together the best combination of the three, ranking first at the position in all three mainstream scoring formats.
Kelce caught 103 passes for 1,336 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season. If not for Kittle’s huge Week 17, which got him to 1,377 yards, Kelce would be the record holder for single-season receiving yards by a tight end. After a one-catch, six-yard dud in Week 1, he had at least 95 yards or a touchdown in 10 of his next 12 games. While his ADP did climb steadily all summer, he still ended draft season as a late-second-round pick, going around the same time as Jordan Howard and LeSean McCoy. He scored more fantasy points than all but five running backs and eight receivers, a true WR1 with a tight end designation. That kept him just ahead of Kittle and Ertz, and made him the 2018 fantasy football tight end MVP.
Honorable Mention: Kittle, Ertz