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Published: Jan. 2, 2017 at 01:22 p.m.
Updated: Jan. 2, 2017 at 02:31 p.m.

2016 Fantasy Guru Awards

The 2016 fantasy football season was all about the running backs, as the position thrived almost across the board. During the course of the fantasy campaign, eight different runners reached the 200-point mark. That's six more than in 2015. Furthermore, almost 65 percent of fantasy fans who won a championship on NFL.com took a running back with their first-round selection. So as you might guess, many of our awards winners come from NFL backfields. For the 10th season, here are my Guru Awards.

12 Photos Total

  • Fantasy Most Valuable Player: David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals 12

    Paul Jasienski/Associated Press

    Fantasy Most Valuable Player: David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals

    This one is a no-brainer, as Johnson finished with 2,000-plus scrimmage yards and 20 total touchdowns during the fantasy football season. He also recorded 100-plus scrimmage yards in all of his starts, so he never put up a true stinker in the stat sheets. The total that might be the most impressive is that Johnson scored more points than all but one quarterback (Aaron Rodgers). That had been done once in the last five years.

  • Fantasy Breakout Player of the Year: Melvin Gordon, RB, San Diego Chargers 11

    John Cordes/Associated Press

    Fantasy Breakout Player of the Year: Melvin Gordon, RB, San Diego Chargers

    Gordon fits into several categories, but he's atop the breakout list of this season's Gurus. After a rookie campaign that saw him fail to score a single touchdown, the talented runner found the end zone 12 times this season and finished as one of the 10 best running backs in fantasy football. Gordon would score 12-plus fantasy points 10 times for fantasy fans, and he also hit the 30-point mark on two different occassions.

  • Fantasy Sleeper of the Year: Jay Ajayi, RB, Miami Dolphins 10

    Tom DiPace/Associated Press

    Fantasy Sleeper of the Year: Jay Ajayi, RB, Miami Dolphins

    This fantasy season was loaded with sleepers, but Ajayi was one of the most notable. He was behind Arian Foster on the Miami depth chart to open the season, and was even a healthy scratch in the opener. Once Foster went down, however, the Boise State product earned the featured role in time and went on to rush for 200-plus yards in three different games (two against the Buffalo Bills). Ajayi rewarded patient fantasy owners.

  • Fantasy Supersleeper of the Year: Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints 9

    Paul Jasienski/Associated Press

    Fantasy Supersleeper of the Year: Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints

    Thomas was considered a deep sleeper when the Saints drafted him, but no one saw him as a near top-10 fantasy wide receiver. He started the season off slow, but recorded double-digit fantasy points in four straight contests (Weeks 3-7) before putting up a big line (two touchdowns, 19.3 points) in a win over the 49ers. With skills comparable to former Saints wideout Marques Colston, Thomas' arrow is pointing upward for 2017.

  • Fantasy Rookie of the Year: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys 8

    Greg Trott/Associated Press

    Fantasy Rookie of the Year: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

    Elliott could be the winner of the MVP and breakout categories, but he was without question the top fantasy rookie of the season. He totaled almost 2,000 scrimmage yards for the fantasy campaign, and his 15 rushing touchdowns were third behind Johnson and New England's LeGarrette Blount. With age (21), talent and a dominant offensive line all on his side, Elliott is a locked and loaded top-three overall selection next season.

  • Fantasy Bust of the Year: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans 7

    Matt Patterson/Associated Press

    Fantasy Bust of the Year: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans

    This could be Todd Gurley or Allen Robinson, but I'd argue that Hopkins was the worst of the trio. A late first-round pick in countless leagues, Nuk finished 41st in fantasy points among wide receivers behind the likes of Kenny Stills, Brandon LaFell and Cole Beasley. It's tough to put all the blame on Hopkins when you consider the "Brock Osweiler Effect," but his lack of production was a season-killer for countless owners.

  • Fantasy Draft Value of the Year: DeMarco Murray, RB, Tennessee Titans 6

    Damian Strohmeyer/Associated Press

    Fantasy Draft Value of the Year: DeMarco Murray, RB, Tennessee Titans

    There were more than a few tremendous draft bargains this season, but I'll side with Murray as the best of the bunch. The selection of Derrick Henry in the NFL Draft was a red flag for fantasy fans, which caused Murray to fall into the middle rounds in countless drafts. The talented veteran would go on to run away with the featured role in Tennessee to the tune of over 1,600 scrimmage yards and 12 total touchdowns.

  • Fantasy Waiver Pickup of the Year: Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago Bears 5

    Scott Boehm/Associated Press

    Fantasy Waiver Pickup of the Year: Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago Bears

    Jeremy Langford opened the season as the top runner in Chicago, but Howard would take over after the first few weeks and become a true featured option for coach John Fox. The rookie rushed for 100 or more yards six times and his 1,178 rushing yards ranked seventh at the position during the fantasy season (he finished second in the league with 1,313 yards after a strong Week 17 performance). That's impressive when you consider that Howard had fewer than 10 rush attempts in three of his first six contests.

  • Fantasy Comeback Player of the Year: Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers 4

    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Fantasy Comeback Player of the Year: Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers

    Nelson missed the entire 2015 campaign due to an injured knee, but he returned with a vengeance this season with 1,191 yards, a league-high 14 touchdown catches and 201.3 fantasy points. The veteran out of Kansas State was a fantasy machine down the stretch, as he posted 437 yards, a combined five touchdowns and 73.7 fantasy points in the final four weeks of the fantasy season. Nelson figures to be a second-rounder in 2017.

  • Fantasy Performance of the Year: Le'Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers (Week 14) 3

    Bill Wippert/Associated Press

    Fantasy Performance of the Year: Le'Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers (Week 14)

    The 2016 fantasy football season saw one 40-point performance, and it came from Bell in the first round of the postseason. The versatile runner put up a ridiculous 236 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the snow in a win over the Bills. Bell, who had another 62 yards as a receiver out of the backfield, scored 17.9 more fantasy points than the next best player (Bilal Powell) in what was a very memorable fantasy weekend.

  • Fantasy Start 'Em of the Year: LeGarrette Blount, RB, New England Patriots 2

    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    Fantasy Start 'Em of the Year: LeGarrette Blount, RB, New England Patriots

    Blount could fit into several categories, including draft bargain or even waiver pickup of the year, but for me he became a staple in the start 'em portion of my weekly Start 'Em, Sit 'Em column. The Oregon product scored at least one touchdown 12 times, and he found the end zone on multiple occassions in four of those contests. It'll be interesting to see where Blount, a free agent after this season, lands (if it isn't with New England) in 2017.

  • Fantasy Sit 'Em of the Year: Brandon Marshall, WR, New York Jets 1

    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Fantasy Sit 'Em of the Year: Brandon Marshall, WR, New York Jets

    Marshall was the third-best wide receiver in fantasy football last season, but you wouldn't have known it from his 2016 totals. After his 17.4-point performance against the Steelers in Week 5, Marshall failed to score more than eight fantasy points in all but one contest. Over his final four games, Marshall scored a combined 12 fantasy points -- that was fewer than 77 other wideouts had recorded during that time frame. Ouch.

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