|ESPN.com: 2011||[Print without images]|
Another season now enters our rearview mirror and prepares to take its place in the hazy memories of times gone by. However, as we prepare for the clash between the Giants and Patriots to put a final nail in the 2011 fantasy coffin, as it were, we here at ESPN.com wanted to take one last look back to see which players had performances that may well stand the test of time.
To put it another way, we're here to hand out our annual ESPN.com All-Pro honors to those deserving individuals who had the most fantasy impact this season.
Remember, we're not talking about "value" in the sense of players who might have been selected late in drafts and somehow rose to the top of the charts through week after week of stellar scoring. No, in this case, we're simply recognizing those players who put up the cumulative stats that merit their inclusion on the following list of the "best of the best" for 2011 as determined by ESPN standard scoring.
So let's dispense with the witty banter, rip open the envelope and reveal the list of what would have made up the elusive "perfect" fantasy lineup in 2011.Congratulations to all of our winners!
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (ADP: 6.1): Even with a week off to prepare for the playoffs, Rodgers was the top quarterback for 2011, claiming the top quarterback spot after last season's second-team honors. Rodgers avoided committing turnovers in six of his 15 starts and, with the exception of the Packers' only regular-season loss, he threw for at least two scores in every game in which he took the field.
Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens (ADP: 7.1): Just by virtue of his rushing numbers, which finished second in the league, he'd be worthy of first-team honors. Throw in his 76 catches for another 704 yards on top of his ground success, and you've got a clear leader in the clubhouse who failed to reach double-digit scoring only twice all season.
LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles (ADP: 10.1): An ankle injury forced him to end the season on a sour note, but until he got hurt, there was no equal to Shady's 2011 performance. His 17 rushing scores were five better than any other back in the league, and in PPR leagues, his 48 receptions further added to his already hefty résumé.
Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions (ADP: 18.6): Megatron ruled early, with eight touchdown grabs in the first four games of the season. He ruled late, with four scores and 560 yards receiving in the final three games of the regular season. Johnson simply ruled all wide receivers, outdistancing his nearest rival by 44 fantasy points on the season.
Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers (ADP: 111.1): Nelson had only 96 targets on the season, but he held on to better than 70 percent of those passes, and turned them into 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns. He had catches of at least 40 yards in seven games, making him a home run threat who actually made contact far more often than he struck out.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars (ADP: 8.7): The amazing thing about Jones-Drew's season isn't that he had at least 80 yards rushing in all but one game of the season. It isn't that he won the rushing title by more than 200 yards. It's that he managed to do all this as pretty much the only offensive weapon on his team. If the Jaguars draft him some help, watch out!
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots (ADP: 122.8): Tight ends are not supposed to finish in the top 15 overall in terms of fantasy scoring, but there are few tight ends like Gronkowski. With a record-setting 17 receiving scores and 1,327 yards in the air, the New England standout came from nowhere into someone who is going to get serious first-round consideration in next season's fantasy drafts.
David Akers, San Francisco 49ers (ADP: 145.3): No kicker had ever successfully made as many field goals as Akers did in 2011, and though he did actually miss eight of his 52 attempts on the year, when it came to the long ones, he was incredibly accurate. Akers went 7-for-9 from 50 yards out or farther, not bad for a guy the Philadelphia Eagles cast off for being too old.
San Francisco 49ers (ADP: undrafted): A hellacious run defense that held the opposition to only 77.3 yards per game on the ground, the 49ers also dominated their foes with 42 sacks and 38 forced turnovers. Thanks to seven games in which they kept their opponents to fewer than 12 points, this was definitely a defense to be feared.
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints (ADP: 14.7): Brees came on strong when his fantasy owners needed him the most, with 14 touchdown passes in the final three weeks of the NFL's regular season. That aligned quite nicely with most fantasy playoffs, and more than made up for a rocky stretch of games from Weeks 3 through 6 when he threw eight interceptions. If not for that brief cold spell, he might have easily made up the difference between himself and Aaron Rodgers.
Arian Foster, Houston Texans (ADP: 3.6): Foster's injury woes kept him sidelined for most of the first three weeks of the season, and he was kept out of Week 17's action in advance of the playoffs. Still, with scores in eight of his final nine games and a 19.6 scoring average from Week 4 on, imagine how high his ceiling would have been if he'd been healthy for the whole campaign!
Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons (ADP: 15.2): Turner was a bit hit or miss this season, with six games of more than 100 yards on the ground, and five games with 60 yards or fewer. If you managed to play him on the right weeks, there was no better back in all of football, but certainly the glass was half-empty a good portion of the time as well, hence his "demotion" to second-team status despite the gaudy rushing numbers.
Wes Welker, New England Patriots (ADP: 55.8): Because he was teammates with Rob Gronkowski, his touchdown total was not that impressive. Having said that, few receivers are used as consistently as Welker, and his 122 receptions made him the only wide receiver with more than 100 catches on the season.
Victor Cruz, New York Giants (ADP: undrafted): Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham were supposed to be the stars in the Giants' receiving game, but when the season came to an end, it was Cruz who stood tallest. Not only did he have 90 or more receiving yards in 10 games, but he surpassed 110 yards seven times. He may have been an unknown on draft day 2011, but he'll be off the board quickly in 2012.
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks (ADP: 79.2): Lynch was a non-entity in the first half of the season, but he went into full "Beast Mode" from Week 9 on, topping the century mark six times in nine games with nine scores. If he can somehow tap into this energy right out of the gate in 2012 and keep it going for a full season, a 1,700-yard season is not a crazy thought to entertain.
Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints (ADP: 116.7): Only by comparison to Rob Gronkowski does Graham's season come up short. He outdistanced the third-best tight end by an average of five points per game and also broke the pre-existing record for receiving yards at his position, though his name now sits in second place on the all-time list. If nothing else, his owners can brag that his 99 catches were the most of any tight end, and third best in the whole NFL.
John Kasay, New Orleans Saints (ADP: 167.6): Just by virtue of his offense's volume of touchdowns, Kasay had enormous value. With five games on the season in which he had six or more extra points, his fantasy owners hardly cared that he managed only one game with more than a single field goal from Week 12 on.
Chicago Bears (ADP: 113.3): With the Bears, it was all about the big play. Devin Hester's return scores, along with six defensive players making trips to the end zone during the season, were more than enough to boost the Bears into second place on the D/ST scoring lists. Of course, that comes as little solace for those who were counting on a big Week 16 outing against the Green Bay Packers. Those owners were let down with a sad negative number from the Bears when it counted the most.
AJ Mass is a fantasy baseball, football and college basketball analyst for ESPN.com. His book, "How Fantasy Sports Explains the World" is available for purchase here. You can e-mail him here.
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