The 2011 fantasy football season may go down as one of the least predictable years ever. Looking back at this crazy year, most fantasy drafts ended up being busts.
The so called fantasy football experts got most of it wrong missing out on guys like Cam Newton and over valuing players like Felix Jones. Interestingly enough you had a better chance building your championship team this year through the waiver wire than the draft.
Playing the fantasy football waiver wire is a tricky game. It requires patience, foresight, and the ability to look at a player’s situation objectively. Remember, any starting quarterback or running back can look like a monster for one week in the right situation. Having the ability to see through that and find that diamond in the ruff that will shine for an entire season is a talent all in itself.
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers – May I present your 2011 Fantasy Football Waiver Wire MVP! This was a an easy choice as far as I am concerned. Newton wasn’t drafted in any of my 10-team leagues after a horrendous preseason. Even after he threw up over 400 yards and went into high double digits in his opener against the Arizona Cardinals, he still remained unclaimed. Fantasy experts called him a fluke but if you were savvy like me you picked him up simply for the possible upside. He is number two overall in standard scoring leagues only behind Aaron Rodgers (ahead of Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Michael Vick) and he was yours for the taking on the waiver wire. If you waited to take a QB late and drafted heavy on RB and WR early, you are probably rolling if you grabbed Newton off waivers.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals – If you can find me the guy that predicted Dalton would come in to a Bengals team as a rookie without the usual Cincinnati supporting cast and put up the numbers he has produced, I would crown that analyst a genius. Nobody could foresee the chemistry between Dalton and AJ Green, who have the potential to become one of the most explosive QB-WR combinations in the NFL. Dalton wasn’t drafted in any of my leagues and if you needed a QB, he was a great fix. In standard scoring leagues he is ahead of Joe Flacco, Matt Hasselbeck, Josh Freeman, and Jay Cutler, all guys that were predicted to have better years than Dalton. He certainly isn’t the difference maker that Newton was, but you weren’t going to find much better on the wire.
Michael Bush, Oakland Raiders – While nobody at the position came off the wire with the same kind of impact that Peyton Hillis had last year, Michael Bush came pretty darn close. Once Run DMC went down, Bush emerged as one of the elite running backs in the fantasy. He has teetered off a bit in recent weeks, but he still remains the best value of any RB in fantasy football considering the fact that you probably got him on the draft. If you were a cautious Darren McFadden owner, you already had him on your bench. However in two of three leagues I am in he was out there for the taking and became a big difference maker for his new owners.
Darren Sproles, New Orleans Saints – I went back and forth between Sproles and DeMarco Murray but overall, Sproles has had a much better season. In two of three leagues he was on the waiver wire as nobody expected him to come into New Orleans and become Drew Brees’ favorite running back ahead of Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram. His ability to catch out of the backfield and make plays happen in space have resulted in some huge games for the new Saint in standard scoring leagues and some monster weeks in PPR.
Victor Cruz, New York Giants – Going into the season it was Hakeem Nicks that was the favorite among most fantasy experts, ranked number four overall in ESPN’s preseason rankings. Yet thanks to injuries and opportunity, it was Cruz that emerged as Eli Manning’s go-to guy in New York. In my standard scoring league he is currently fourth overall, ahead of everyone in ESPN’s top 10 preseason rankings other than Calvin Johnson. The guy has been a monster and if you have him, you grabbed him off the wire. Rarely does a wide receiver with that much impact wind up on the waiver wire, but this year Cruz did.
Laurent Robinson, Dallas Cowboys – This was a tough one as I bounced back between Antonio Brown, Robinson, and Jordy Nelson. In the end it appears Nelson was not nearly as available as these guys on the wire and Brown has not had as many huge games as Robinson has. Robinson has quickly turned into the go-to guy in a high powered offense. Right now Robinson is in the top 15 in my standard scoring league overall and would likely be higher if he got his opportunities earlier in the season. Since Week 8 Robinson has had at least one touchdown every week but one. He has become an every week starter for me in three of my leagues and has saved a lot of seasons for struggling owners at the WR position.
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots – Quite frankly, I bounced back and forth between Gronkowski and Newton for the overall MVP. Gronkowski has not only emerged as the best fantasy tight end in the game, he has more points than any wide receiver in the NFL in standard scoring leagues. Think about that one for a second. This guy has outscored Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, Wes Welker, etc and he is a tight end! To get that kind of production at your tight end position is just insane. I was lucky to get him in one of my leagues and I am reaping the benefits in the playoffs. As a matter of a fact, every Gronkowski owner is in the playoffs in all of my leagues. Hopefully you are too if you were lucky enough to grab him.