Ryan Boser: Fantasy Football Oscars
Every year, the Hollywood award season prompts a slew of cheesy Oscar spoofs. I assure you, this one will be no different. So in the spirit of honoring our fake heroes, I invite you to sit back and let your imaginations run wild. Picture Jay Cutler rocking the red carpet in a shimmering Chanel gown. Perhaps a tardy Brett Favre shows up after the pre-party festivities, sporting snug Wranglers, black Crocs, and a freshly soiled Nike cap. The bootylicious Inez Sainz is doing her Ryan Seacrest thang in a scandalous wedding dress. Again. And of course, the jovial Rex Ryan will be your colorful effing host. So, now that I’ve set the theatrical tone, and gotten my obligatory cheap shots out of the way, cue the music! Without further ado, I present to you the 2011 Fantasy Academy Awards!
BEST PERFORMANCE IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
These nominees were complimentary contributors who stood out in secondary roles for their respective offenses. In the shadows of Tom Brady’s celebrated spotlight, BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ 13 touchdowns were the most for a Patriots’ back since Corey Dillon in 2006, and he became the first New England runner to crack 1,000 yards since Dillon in 2004… Both Matt Cassel and David Garrard stepped beyond the boundaries of typical game managers, often stealing the show for two of the run-heaviest teams in the league… Andy Reid’s scripts are notoriously light on running plays, so the resourceful LeSean McCoy gets a nod… Finally, McCoy’s teammate Jeremy Maclin packed less flash but more catches and touchdowns than the vivacious DeSean Jackson.
WINNER: LeSean McCoy While McCoy finished 19th in carries, his league-best 78 receptions among backs acted as an extension of the running game in Philadelphia. McCoy’s versatility was undoubtedly the glue that held the Eagles’ explosive offense together. The 22 year-old sophomore’s rushing average improved by over a yard (to 5.2 YPC) from his rookie campaign, and when defenses swarmed to Michael Vick, the shifty McCoy showed an uncanny knack for finding open space. Last year we scoffed at the Brian Westbrook comparisons. This year, Shady scoffed back.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
These nominees delivered unexpected fantasy points with the most creative touchdowns of the season. In Week 14, the surprisingly fleet-footed Jay Feely humiliated the Broncos when he took a fake field goal attempt around right end for six… In Week 10, the diminutive Mike Thomas reeled in a batted 50-yard Hail Mary from David Garrard, running up his fantasy tab as time expired… And we’ll never forget DeSean Jackson’s fumbling, grandstanding, comeback-capping punt return touchdown against the Giants in Week 15, the first walk-off punt return in NFL history. (A “Cut Matt Dodge!” chant breaks out somewhere in the balcony)
WINNER: Jay Feely The last kicker to score a touchdown was Dallas’ Tim Seder, way back in 2001. Not only did Feely become just the fourth kicker in 40 years to reach pay dirt, but he tacked on five field goals (36, 48, 55, 23, 49), and four PAT. In my league, that was good for 29 fantasy points, a broken T.V. remote, and a two-week suspension from the message board.
BEST SHORT PERFORMANCE
These nominees achieved fantasy excellence despite playing in fewer than 10 games. Austin Collie struggled with concussions, yet found a way to score eight touchdowns in bits and pieces of nine games… Through six games, Collie’s teammate Dallas Clark was on pace for 99 receptions, 925 yards, and eight touchdowns before a wrist injury landed him on Injured Reserve… A broken clavicle spoiled a strong start for Tony Romo — in five full games he threw 10 touchdowns and averaged 313 yards per game… Lastly, rookie Tim Tebow got the starting nod in Denver for Weeks 15-17, and was the No. 1 fantasy quarterback over that crucial span.
WINNER: Tim Tebow. The Mile-High Messiah benefits from a season ending surge that’s still fresh in our minds. The timely nature of his fantasy heroics gives Tebow the slight edge over the cloudy Collie. While his passing numbers were mediocre in his three starts, a Vick-like 199 yards and three scores on the ground propelled brave souls to fantasy glory.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
These nominees achieved brilliance in the area of special effects. Peyton Hillis bulldozed his way through helpless defenses, delivering more pain than a Chuck Norris roundhouse… Jitterbug DeSean Jackson’s lightning speed and end zone antics were mesmerizing… Michael Vick returned to the big screen packing explosives and a rocket launcher… The genetically freaky Calvin Johnson provided jaw-dropping visuals without the use of CGI… And finally, the artistry of Brandon Lloyd’s acrobatic body control, gravity-defying hops, and sticky hands was enough to make Spider Man blush.
WINNER: Michael Vick It was a strong field, but Vick wins in a landslide. He was truly a human highlight film, routinely delivering mind-bending moments both on the ground and through the air. Vick is to football what “The Matrix” was to film — a stylistic groundbreaker that triggers widespread emulation.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Each member of this cast of clowns was successful in becoming a character of himself. Teammates Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco co-flopped in “The T.Ocho Show” on Versus. In his spare time, Chad obnoxiously promoted his “Mad Chad” iPhone app on Twitter, changed his surname again, but couldn’t manage to squeeze fantasy relevance into his tight schedule… Disgruntled food critic Randy Moss posted five touchdowns and three area codes, and is rumored to be in conversation with HGTV’s “House Hunters.”
WINNER: Terrell Owens. Getcha popcorn ready! While his entertainment level failed to match the other two Looney Tunes this season, Owens delivered a much more powerful performance. Think “Wall-E.” His nine touchdowns equaled the combined total of his competition, and he bordered on WR1 fantasy status all season.
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
These real-life story lines were even more extraordinary than the nominees’ on-field performances. Michael Vick’s journey from doghouse to penthouse was a box office blockbuster… Mike Williams ate himself out of the league in 2008 (he reportedly topped 270 pounds when he was cut by Tennessee — yeah, I didn’t know he played there either). After a two-year hiatus, his heartwarming reunion with Pete Carroll led to a 65-catch career resurgence… After Peyton Hillis attempted to dip his pen in the company ink, Josh McDaniels made him “the other guy” in the Brady Quinn trade. The blocking back went on to crush defenses and white running back stereotypes to the tune of 1,654 combo yards and 13 scores… Arian Foster inspired us with his tear-jerking tale of an undrafted practice squadder’s ascension to Fantasy King… Finally, Brandon Lloyd went straight to DVD on fantasy draft nights, proving that we’re not as smart as we think.
WINNER: Brandon Lloyd. It’s hard to recall a more unlikely breakout performance. In his first seven years, the journeyman’s season-bests were 48 catches, 733 yards, and six touchdowns. In his eighth season, he won the NFL receiving crown by posting a stunning 77/1,448/11 mark. For the math geeks in the crowd, that’s a 1,138% increase from his 117 yards in 2009.
These nominees brought out the best in their respective casts. Not only did Andy Reid turn Michael Vick into a passer, but his offense finished third in scoring and first in style points… Bill Belichick gave us a reliable 1-2 punch of Tom Brady and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and found a way to get use out of a washed up Deion Branch, a pint-sized Danny Woodhead, and a pair of rookie tight ends… Raheem Morris is low budget sleeper who delivered unexpectedly solid fantasy production from a 22-year old quarterback, a 3rd-round wide receiver, and an undrafted rookie running back… Gary Kubiak had the courage to set aside his meddling ways and turn Arian Foster into a monster… Lastly, despite missing his top 3-4 pass catchers for large chunks of the season, Norv Turner’s Chargers finished second in scoring and first in yardage.
WINNER: Andy Reid. Andy’s not used to holding trophies, but he earned this one by giving us a top-5 quarterback, a top-10 running back, and two top-20 wide receivers.
BEST PERFORMANCE IN A LEAD ROLE
Simply put, these guys were the year’s most outstanding performers. It took an injury to Ben Tate for Arian Foster to solidify a supporting role in Houston, but he immediately stole the lead in Week 1 and never looked back… Peyton Manning threw for 4,700 yards, and Tom Brady went a ridiculous 36:4… Michael Vick and Aaron Rodgers picked up extra points with their legs, finishing 1-2, respectively, in fantasy points per game.
WINNER: Arian Foster. The quarterback field was impressive, but collectively, they watered down the positional value. Foster stood out among his peers, providing an unmatched weekly point differential. With 18 touchdowns and 2,218 combo yards, Foster pulled clear of the field in both categories, and will enter 2011 as the strongest candidate for the No. 1 overall pick.