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The 2015 NFL season will be remembered for how many top players were sidelined for much of the season.
In fantasy terms, six of the players in the pre-season top 20 in Yahoo! standard leagues ultimately missed at least four weeks of the season, and three of those injuries ended seasons for the players involved:
* Jamaal Charles, RB, KC: Overall Rank: 2. Position Rank: 2. Season-ending injury Week 6.
* Marshawn Lynch, RB, SEA: O-Rank: 4. P-Rank: 4. Missed five weeks so far.
* LeVeon Bell, RB, PIT: O-Rank 5. P-Rank: 5. Season-ending injury Week 9.
* Dez Bryant, WR, DAL: O-Rank: 7. P-Rank: 2. Missed six weeks.
* Andrew Luck, QB, IND: O-Rank: 17. P-Rank: 1. Missed five weeks so far.
* Justin Forsett, RB, BAL: O-Rank: 19. P-Rank: 10. Season-ending injury Week 11.
This list doesn't include injuries outside the top 20 that still had major fantasy relevance, such as the extended inactive stretch for Alshon Jeffery or the early-season and later season-ending injuries to Tony Romo.
Injuries were one thing that made this season's fantasy slate even more of a crapshoot than usual, but there were plenty of other unexpected turns - not only top players who didn't perform as hoped, but also sleepers and no-names who ran away with more fantasy accolades than anyone could have expected. Here are my own choices for season-ending honors - and a couple of dishonors:
Fantasy MVP and Biggest Overall Surprise: Devonta Freeman, RB, ATL.
Through Week 13, he had 811 rushing yards, nine rush TDs, 476 receiving yards and two receiving TDs, good for 186 fantasy points, the most by any RB. Not bad for a guy who started the season projected as the No. 2 back behind rookie Tevin Coleman.
Rookie of the Year: Todd Gurley, RB, STL.
He has slowed down in his last few games but 835 yards rushing and six TDs in his first 10 games shows you just how fast he started. He was widely drafted despite the knowledge he would miss at least four games, possibly more to start the season, and that he could be slow to build up speed coming off injury. Instead, he has exploded with fantasy value, and is looking like the possible No. 1 or No. 2 overall draft pick for next year.
QB of the Year: Tom Brady, NE.
Smart draft money was bet on the QB who barely made the pre-season top 10 at his position. Angry Tom's 2015 scorched earth campaign has been pretty much everything we expected, though with a couple of poor games that could be blamed on a raft of injuries in the Pats' offense. Brady leads the NFL with 3,912 passing yards and 31 pass TDs through Week 13. Even with the aforementioned injuries, I think he has a good chance to end the season right around 5,000 yards passing and 40 TDs.
WR of the Year: Allen Robinson, JAX.
A surprise pick you could argue with, Robinson was considered to be at the deeper end of the WR-1 pool when the season opened, but has amassed 11 TD receptions on 65 catches for 1,080 yards. Julio Jones, Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. all had slightly more fantasy points, but Robinson delivered the biggest value on his draft position.
TE of the Year: Tyler Eifert, CIN.
His 12 receiving TDs lead all pass-catchers, and if he could have come up with a few big yardage games, I'd be ready to call him a top 10 overall player for next year.
Player Who Ruined Most Fantasy Seasons: Tie between Luck and Eddie Lacy, RB, GB.
I've said a lot about him already, but week to week he was the most inconsistent fantasy player that most owners had to start regardless. A huge waste of the No. 3 or No. 4 draft pick in most leagues and now a huge gamble no matter where he is ranked for next year.
Comeback Player of the Year: Doug Martin, RB, TAM.
He was considered a chic RB-2 for fantasy purposes, the type you might skip over to gamble on a lower-ranked player, but so far he has 1,133 rushing yards, good for No. 2 behind Adrian Peterson. With a few weeks to go, I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up the leader in rushing yards, which might not be a slam dunk to make him the No. 1 fantasy pick next year, but probably in the top five overall.
Kicker Most Likely To Have Contributed To Two Weekly Wins: Cairo Santos, KC.
His 27 fantasy points on seven field goals (two of them 50+ yards) in Week 4 could have made him the top points man overall on many fantasy teams that week. Then, in Week 10, he scored 21 fantasy points on five field goals. KC's offense sputtered enough this year that he has been able to get a lot of FG tries, but not a lot of extra points.
Preseason Top 10 QB Most Likely to Lose Fantasy Significance: Peyton Manning, DEN.
A hugely embarrassing year topped off by this: The game in which he became the NFL career passing yards leader also was arguably the worst game of his long career (35 yards passing, zero TDs, four INTs) and possibly his last game as the Broncos' starting QB. He may have another year in him, maybe even a decent one, but I can't see him being better than a deep-round back-up for fantasy draft purposes next year.
QB Outside the Top 10 Most Likely to Gain Fantasy Significance: Blake Bortles, JAX.
At draft time, he was a lottery ticket back-up choice, but is currently third in pass TDs behind Brady and Palmer. Of course, he's also second in INTs behind Manning, but his talented main targets - WRs Robinson and Allen Hurns, and TE Julius Thomas, should make his one of the hotter draft stocks going into next season.
It's been a long, strange season. I'm in one league where I drafted last after winning the championship last year and ended up with a healthy, talented group that carried me into first place through Week 13 this season. But in another league, I had the third pick overall, which I spent on Lacy of course, and had to fight tooth-and-nail just to stay out of the basement. Another reminder that it all just comes down to luck.
This is my final Fantasy Fix column for 2015. Happy Holidays, and I'll see you again in January 2016 to talk fantasy baseball!
Dan O'Shea is our man in fantasyland. He welcomes your comments.
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