First-Half Fantasy Player Awards

Biggest Surprise: Hard to go with anyone but Cam Newton here. He’s had a good deal of help from a re-energized Steve Smith, but the inverse is true as well – it’s so long since we last saw how dangerous Smith could be that the fantasy world had just about written him off. Those who took a late-round flier on him in keeper leagues have been on cloud nine all season. Honorable Mention: Jimmy Graham, Victor Cruz, Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Biggest Flop: Again, an easy call – Chris Johnson isn’t just having a bad year, he’s having an awful one. The only reason he wasn’t benched weeks ago is because he forced his team to sign him to what looks like a ludicrous contract now. You have to wonder whether he somehow knew his best playing days were already behind him, making it imperative to sign a contract before anyone got the chance to see him play. Honorable Mention: DeAngelo Williams, Josh Freeman (a pre-season fantasy darling), Mike Williams (blame Freeman).

Most Frustrating: Tough call here and it could easily go to CJ, but I think it’s Peyton Hillis by a nose. Hillis should just shut it down now because it’s clear that the Madden Curse has taken a special liking to him. After renewing his owners’ faith in him with a 94-yard, two-touchdown performance in week 2, he sat out week 3 with an illness some found suspicious after he said his agent had advised him against playing. With that behind him, he promptly injured his hamstring and carried the ball a total of 16 times in weeks 4-8. It isn’t a good sign that he’s bailing on charity engagements, either. There might be better times ahead for Hillis, but for many owners who trusted him with a high draft pick, it might be too little, too late. Honorable Mention: Andre Johnson, Felix Jones, Mario Manningham.

Best Keeper Value: Obviously Cam Newton is your winner here – he went near the end of most drafts this year and will be near the top of most next year after what could go down as the most impressive rookie season ever for a QB. That said, let’s not overlook the season that A.J. Green is having – he’s playing well above the mid-round draft pick he was taken for in most leagues and will be a steal for his keeper owners in most formats next year, especially as Andy Dalton continues to improve. Honorable Mention: Victor Cruz, Antonio Brown, Matthew Stafford.

The “Statement Season” Award: Goes to the player who most effectively silenced his doubters. I think it’s a toss-up between two running backs: Fred Jackson and Ryan Mathews. Jackson, a 30-year-old late bloomer in the NFL, seemed destined to return to backup/timeshare status two years ago when the Bills spent the ninth overall pick in the 2010 draft on a speedster named C.J. Spiller. Instead, he’s seemingly gotten better every week while Spiller has been underwhelming at best (though he’s becoming interesting as a receiver). Jackson is third in the league in rushing with 721 yards and has added 27 receptions for 353 yards. Mathews hasn’t had as dominant a season as Jackson’s, but after an abysmal rookie season he’s bounced back to prove that he deserved to be a first-round pick. He hasn’t quite replaced LT in the hearts of Chargers fans, but his fantasy owners have no complaints this season. Honorable Mention: Steve Smith, Alex Smith.