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Things to be thankful for in fantasy this season

This week, we all step away from our crazy schedules for a couple of days to spend some time with family and friends as the holiday season has officially arrived (In case you hadn't noticed by the seasonal commercials that started at the end of like, August).

We'll feast on whatever it is we feast on for Thanksgiving and of course we'll all plop on our respective couches and glue our eyes to color television sets (HD if we're lucky) to watch something like 12 straight hours of NFL football.

That right there is Thanksgiving in a nutshell. (Is there a pun there? If so, not intended). 

For all of you fantasy football enthusiasts out there I think it's safe to say that you are thankful that fantasy football even exists, because it is so very awesome.

But more specifically, what are some things you can be thankful for from this 2014 fantasy season? With your league's playoffs quickly approaching, let's take some time to reflect upon some of the best (and worst) things about this season that we can all thank the fantasy gods for.

Rookie wide receivers:

Before the season, there was a lot of hype about this year's rookie wide receiver class. It was an extremely talented bunch poised to make an impact in fantasy. But that's the thing -- it's rare for rookie wideouts to bring much value to the table in their first season in the NFL.

But 2014 has been different. Through Week 12, five rookie wideouts ranked among the top 25 in total fantasy points with two of them in the top 11.

Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin lead the pack with eight touchdowns apiece and 841 and 768 yards respectively, both totaling over 120 fantasy points thus far. Sammy Watkins, Jordan Matthews and Odell Beckham Jr. are not far behind, each with over 90 fantasy points on the season.

And don't forget about mid-season bloomers Martavis Bryant and Jarvis Landry who have emerged as some of the most valuable fantasy wideouts in recent weeks.

So thank you rookie wide receivers, for being there in the late rounds of fantasy drafts and on the waiver wire when we needed you most. And thanks for providing ridiculous catches like this.

After all, it is the #YearOfTheRookieWR.

Picking up Justin Forsett and Mark Ingram before it was cool:

Yeah, totally saw this coming.

Nobody really knew how the Ravens' backfield would shape up this season and it really looked like a mess in the first few weeks. But right off the bat, Justin Forsett was hot putting up 84 total yards and a touchdown in Week 1 making him an extremely coveted waiver wire commodity. If you snagged Forsett off the waiver wire after Week 1 instead of Allen Hurns (remember him?) your fantasy team was much better off in the longrun.

Baltimore flirted with the idea of using rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro and even Bernard Pierce for a bit, but Forsett quickly emerged as the lead back and through 11 weeks he was the seventh-highest scoring running back in all of fantasy. Plus, he just went off on Monday night for 31.00 fantasy points, so there's some icing on the cake for his season of fantasy goodness.

So thank you Justin Forsett, for being a consistent producer and quite arguably, the best waiver-wire add of the season.

Another surprisingly valuable running back, Mark Ingram, was actually drafted in very late rounds back in August but was of course part of a dreaded three-headed committee in New Orleans. After a hot start with three touchdowns in his first two games, he broke his hand during the Saints' Week 2 game and had to sit out for about a month.

As soon as he returned, the other two members that he was forecasted to share carries with (Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson) had to miss a string of games with injuries which left Ingram as the lone workhorse for the Saints.

Since Week 8, Ingram has been a beast for fantasy owners helping lead many teams on a late-season push for the playoffs.

So thank you Mark Ingram, for being the early and late-season RB1 we all knew you could be.

Not wasting an early- or mid-round draft pick on a defense:

There was at least one of them in just about every fantasy league. A fantasy owner who drafted the Seahawks defense in the fifth round. The first three defensive units off draft boards in 2014 were: Seattle Seahawks (ADP Round 5), Carolina Panthers (ADP Round 7), San Francisco 49ers (ADP Round 7) and Cincinnati Bengals (ADP Round 8).

Through 12 weeks, only the 49ers rank among the top 10 in total fantasy points, and even they have weeks with zero and negative points on their log. The other three D/STs rank outside the top 18 fantasy defenses through Week 12 with the Seahawks at No. 19, Bengals at No. 24 and the poor Panthers at No. 26 with four weeks of negative fantasy points.

But thankfully, you didn't risk it and have been streaming your defense each week, which usually pays off in the end.

Andrew Luck:

Through 12 Weeks, Andrew Luck still stands as the top scoring player in all of fantasy with 264.94 points and remains ahead of Peyton Manning by just over one point.

His streak of consecutive games with over 300 passing yards ended at eight in Week 12 and his 29 touchdown passes are third in the league. He's also sixth among all quarterbacks in rushing yards with 193 and has two rushing touchdowns to boot.

The biggest reason to be thankful for Luck this season is the fact that on average, he was the fourth quarterback to come off draft boards back in August behind Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. Not that those other guys weren't worth an early-round pick, save for Brees who ranks well behind the others in terms of total fantasy points thus far. But if you managed to snag a few elite running backs and a wideout before picking up Luck in maybe the fourth round, your team is probably looking pretty nice right now.

So thank you Andrew Luck, for providing an automatic advantage at quarterback all season long and playing like a robot programmed to do nothing else but put up huge fantasy points.

Rob Gronkowski has stayed healthy and been a monster:

Through 12 weeks he leads all tight ends in fantasy points and has racked up over 140 more receiving yards than Jimmy Graham. Gronk was a risky draft pick coming off last season's ACL tear and many feared that we may see a repeat of 2013 when he didn't play until weeks into the season. But the Patriots cautiously eased him into action in 2014, incrementally increasing his snap count and getting him more involved each week.

An investment in Gronk has really paid off for fantasy owners, and the most important part is that he's been able to stay healthy.

So thank you Rob Gronkowski, for returning to top fantasy tight end form and for outscoring Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas this season. Also, thanks for this ridiculous touchdown play. This man is a human truck.

Not believing the hype on Cordarelle Patterson and Montee Ball:

On average, Montee Ball and Cordarrelle Patterson were drafted in Round 2 and Round 5 respectively in fantasy drafts back in August. This was due to incredible amounts ot of preseason hype surrounding these young and unproven players.

Ball was projected to be Denver's workhorse back and history shows that any featured back in a Peyton Manning-run offense is usually fantasy gold. (See: Moreno, Knowshon in 2013.)

Ball ended up getting injured just four games into the season. In the three full games he played, he scored just one touchdown and didn't reach the 100-yard mark once. On average, he was drafted ahead of running backs like Le'Veon Bell, Arian Foster, Alfred Morris and Rashad Jennings. That's more than enough fodder for fantasy bust conversation.

On the wide receiver front, poor Cordarrelle Patterson. In many leagues, the second-year Vikings wideout was drafted ahead of players like Roddy White, Emmanuel Sanders, T.Y. Hilton (what were we thinking?!), Mike Wallace ... the list goes on and on.

Patterson has produced double-digit fantasy points just one time all season -- in Week 1 when he had 102 rushing yards and a touchdown. Man, that was so glorious, but the glory didn't last long. Since then, he hasn't had any 100-yard games and has scored just one receiving touchdown the entire season.

But thankfully, you didn't fall for the offseason hype on either of these busts, so give yourself a pat on the back for that.

Matt Franciscovich is an associate fantasy editor at Follow him on Twitter _**@mfranciscovich**_.

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