We've reached the end of the line in the fantasy football season. For most of you, the dream of a championship has likely died. But that doesn't mean you can't sit back and enjoy some end of the year festivities. So consider this our NFL Fantasy LIVE season-ending awards banquet. It's all the fun and excitement of your typical awards show, without any of the long speeches and overcooked chicken. Plus, there's no band to play anyone off the stage.
Comeback Fantasy Player of the Year
We'll start with the guys who renewed fantasy owners' faith in them this season. For guys like Philip Rivers and LeSean McCoy, a change in head coaches went a long way toward resurrecting their fantasy values.
The Chargers quarterback finished outside of the top 20 at his position last season, failing to reach 4,000 passing yards while tossing 15 interceptions. This year, with Mike McCoy at the helm, Rivers is the third-leading overall scorer.
Similarly, LeSean McCoy struggled last season under Andy Reid with just over 1,200 scrimmage yards and five touchdowns. Enter Chip Kelly and now McCoy is a top 15 overall player and second among running backs.
What about Knowshon Moreno? The perenially underachieving back won a starting job when many thought it would belong to rookie Montee Ball. As a key cog in Denver's high-powered offense, Moreno has been a top-five fantasy running back all season long on his way to setting career-highs in scrimmage yards and total touchdowns.
Unsung Hero Award (NFL Media Experts vote)
The biggest thing all three of these players have in common -- apart from being generally ignored by fantasy owners on draft day -- is that all three took over and found success after star players suffered injuries. Douglas ebbed later in the season and Josh McCown was replaced when Jay Cutler returned from an ankle injury. But Nick Foles continues to play and play well, both for the Eagles and fantasy football owners.
Fantasy Bust of the Year
All summer long, we preached the importance of selecting a running back in the first round of your fantasy draft. The list of supposed can't-miss fantasy stars included long-time stud Ray Rice and a couple of breakouts from last season in C.J. Spiller and Trent Richardson.
But a funny thing happened on the way to first-round fantasy draft production. Rice started the season banged up and played behind an offensive line that protected about as well as a screen door. We all thought Spiller would run the ball until he puked -- then we learned he didn't have the (ahem!) intestinal fortitude we'd all imagined.
Meanwhile, Richardson was the focal point of a surprising early-season trade to Indianapolis. It looked like he was ready to take off while playing alongside Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne and company. By the time the dust settled, Donald Brown became the Colts running back of choice while Richardson became a fantasy punchline.
Best Value Draft Pick (NFL Media Experts vote)
At the start of the season, fantasy owners were probably just as likely to confuse Browns tight end Jordan Cameron with Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan. But after the USC product put up a few big games early in the season, people quickly figured it out. Even if he lulled midway through the season, he was a surprising bright spot at a position that has been uneven all year long.
If you were to look up "fantasy disappointment" in the dictionary, you probably would have seen Mathews' picture. And just when everyone jumped off the bandwagon, Mathews turned into the running back we thought he could be. Credit his ability to both stay healthy and hold on to the football. It's led to him being a top 10 fantasy running back this year.
While everyone was focused on Wes Welker leaving New England, Danny Woodhead quietly had an equally productive season in a new spot. Woodhead was a dual-threat back in the Chargers backfield and through Week 15 had scored just 1.2 fewer fantasy points than the aforementioned Welker. Maybe Tom Brady was really upset about losing Woodhead last offseason.
Fantasy Rookie of the Year
We thought last year was the Year of the Rookie after what Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson were able to do. This crop might not have had quite teh same ballyhoo starting the year, but they've been pretty impressive in their own right during their freshman campaigns in the NFL.
Did Keenan Allen succeed because of Philip Rivers' resurgence? Or did Rivers bounce back because Keenan Allen was so good? We can go round-and-round on that for awhile, but the fact remains that Allen worked his way from preseason sleeper to fantasy must-start status and was far and away the top rookie at the receiver spot.
There was a belief that Bernard could become Cincinnati's primary running back ... in 2014. The rookie was ahead of schedule and made himself the Bengals back to own by the midway point of the 2013 campaign. In a league where running backs who can do multiple things are prized over others, Bernard's dual-threat status has already served him well.
The Packers have been in search of a running back for a couple of seasons. It seems they may have found their man with the hard-charging back from Alabama. Lacy has been everything Green Bay -- and fantasy owners -- could want and kept all manners of teams afloat after Aaron Rodgers went down with a broken collarbone.
Spot Start of the Year (NFL Media Experts vote)
Chalk 'em up as three guys you couldn't trust on a weekly basis, but if you caught them on the right week, you were a pretty happy fantasy enthusiast.
In Week 8, Marvin Jones (36.20 fantasy points) exploded for 122 yards and four TDs in a rout of the Jets. Week 9 saw two big performances with Cotchery (27.60) posting 96 receiving yards and three touchdowns while Case Keenum (28.60) shocked the fantasy world with 350 passing yards and three TDs.
Fantasy Sophomore of the Year
Often, we worry about the dreaded Sophomore Slump. That worry doubled after having such a quality crop of rookies in 2013. And while guys like RGIII struggled to duplicate last season's production, not everyone failed to live up to expectations.
Andrew Luck got off to a quick start, though he slowed down later in the season. Nonetheless, he helped the Colts to a playoff berth and likely did the same for a few fantasy owners as well. Plus, he's still good for the occasional big fantasy outburst. Just ask the Cincinnati Bengals.
Russell Wilson is one of those fantasy stars that never seems to dazzle on a weekly basis, but somehow remains steady enough that when it's all said and done, he's among the top producers at the end of the season. Besides, how can you ignore someone who's worked his way into the NFL MVP conversation?
It's hard to imagine anyone who has done more with less -- and in a shorter amound of time -- than Gordon. He put together a four-week stretch that was unparalleled, including becoming the only WR in league history to post consecutive 200-yard receiving games. Even after missing the first four games of the season, the Browns star entered Week 15 as the NFL's leader in receiving yards. Wow.
Best Single Game Fantasy Performance (NFL Media Experts vote)
It's hard to ever imagine a scenario in which Jamaal Charles could score 51.50 fantasy points with just 20 rushing yards. But that was the case in Week 15 when the Chiefs star posted five touchdowns -- four receiving -- in a blowout win over the Raiders.
The Raiders were also on the wrong end of Nick Foles' day to remember. In Week 9, the Eagles quarterback posted a gaudy 45.64 fantasy points by throwing for 406 yards and tying an NFL record with seven touchdown passes. It was a record set by...
Peyton Manning. Fantasy's leading point-scorer announced his presence with authority to start the season. Facing the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens in Week 1, Manning had 462 yards and seven touchdowns for a 46.28-point day. Seemingly the only thing he did wrong that night was losing two rushing yards. Slacker.
Waiver Wire Pickup of the Year (NFL Media Experts vote)
You likely didn't draft any of these guys, but at some point, you realized you couldn't live without them.
Stacy was an afterthought in the Rams backfield before the season started, when we all believed Daryl Richardson would win the starting job. But a combination of injury and ineffectiveness led Stacy to taking the gig ... and it doesn't look like he's giving it up any time soon.
Alshon Jeffery is legitimately challenging Brandon Marshall for the title of Chicago Bears top receiving target. Not bad for a guy who was thought to maybe be the third or fourth option in his team's passing game.
Fantasy Player of the Year
It's a quarterback's league and two of this league's best signal-callers are in teh running for the title of fantasy football's best.
Manning has been on the money from the moment the season kicked off and has barely slowed down as the months have ticked off. The veteran QB leads the league in passing yards (4,811) and touchdown passes (47). He even scored a rushing TD this year -- his first since 2008. What can't he do?
Through the first 15 weeks, Drew Brees posted 20 fantasy points or better in a week seven times. Three different times, Brees scored better than 30 points. When it comes to consistency at the quarterback spot, few compare to the veteran star out of Purdue. But can he compete with Manning's video game numbers this season?
In a league dominated by quarterbacks, it's saying something when a running back is a legitimate contender to win this award. Charles won't catch Manning or Brees for overall scoring, but it's hard to argue the rusher's production. Kansas City's top back has failed to score double-digit points just twice all year. And he's turned it up a notch beginning in Week 12, averaging 31.25 points through Week 15 -- including his enormous 51.50-point outburst.
Be sure to get your vote in, then watch NFL Fantasy LIVE all week long to see the winners!