The 2020 fantasy football season has been one wild ride. From big-name injuries to Covid scares to dramatic comebacks, it tested our resolve as only sports can. Unfortunately, there is only one winner, so if you suffered through catastrophic injuries and underwhelming performances early, picked up a few diamonds in the rough to lead you into the playoffs, only to suffer an agonizing loss at the hands on an unlikely hero, your season sounds a lot like mine. It’s not the size of the payout but the joy of playing, at least that’s what we keep telling ourselves to prevent busting another hole in the family room drywall. But the thrill of victory keeps us coming back for more, and as we reflect on this year’s disappointments and re-configure our white boards for 2021, we carry visions of raising that trophy under a confetti shower over Zoom happy hour next season.
Biggest season losses
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
A top-five pick in every draft, McCaffrey was the one guy you could rely on to deliver a steady influx of points. Just like Alvin Kamara for the Saints or Dalvin Cook for the Vikings, he was capable of twenty-plus touches a game and high scores regardless of the opponent. Then, he rolled his ankle in week 2 at the end of the game and missed the next six weeks of the season. He returned in week 9 against the Chiefs and put up 37 points, then never played again with a quad strain, finishing the season with a 30.1 average in the three games he played.
Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
Also a top-ten pick in most drafts, Barkley was another jack of all trades on a bad team, poised for a rebound after a slight dip last year following his rookie Pro Bowl season. It’s safe to say he’d be headed toward Aaron Jones or Nick Chubb numbers but after a rough week 1 loss to the Steelers, Barkley suffered a torn ACL in the second week against the Bears, ending his season with a total of 15.4 fantasy points.
Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys
In one of the more-bizarre offseason moves in which the Cowboys did not offer Prescott a long-term contract, the quarterback was essentially playing for the open market. And Prescott responded with monster numbers, throwing for over 450 yards in three of his first four games, including 502 against the Browns in week 4. But after averaging 30.5 fantasy points, Prescott suffered a horrible ankle injury the following week against the Giants, ending his season and muddying his free agent value. Prescott had more total points then his back-up Andy Dalton did in twice the number of games played.
Worst mid-season pick-ups
Nick Foles, QB, Chicago Bears
With the Bears franchise quarterback Mitch Trubisky struggling, Foles came in during the second half against the Falcons in week 3 and threw 3 touchdowns to lead the Bears to victory. The league’s greatest back-up quarterback was wearing the glass slipper again. First place in the NFC North, Super Bowl, Pro Bowl, Disney World—it was all there for Foles. Then he averaged 12.4 fantasy points over the next seven weeks with 7 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, leading the Bears on a six-game losing streak and a spot on the bench in favor of Trubisky, who’s brought the Bears back into playoff contention and likely salvaged his own career.
Le’Veon Bell, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
After dominating fantasy stats for three seasons, Bell refused to play for the Steelers in 2018 when they slapped the franchise tag on him for the second straight year. Then he earned his money and the spotlight with the Jets, who were God awful. So after forcing his way out, Bell was traded to the Chiefs, a dream scenario for a feature back in an explosive offense. But Bell found himself relegated to a back-up role behind Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and when he carried more of the load, was unimpressive. Bell had a 6.8 average in fantasy points since joining the Chiefs mid-season, nothing compared to his Steelers numbers.
Travis Fulgham, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Fulgham was a breakout star for the Eagles after 12 receptions and 152 yards against the Steelers in week 5 and soon became a top acquisition from every fantasy expert. And for the next three weeks, he averaged over 17 fantasy points, destined for the Pro Bowl and a big contract extension. After that, Fulgham was virtually invisible, averaging 2.4 fantasy points over the next seven games as Philly went from bad to worse.
Tyler Higbee, TE, Los Angeles Rams
Higbee’s 3 touchdowns against the Eagles in week 2 put him into elite TE status alongside Travis Kelce and Darren Waller as the missing link in a high-firing Rams offense. Then he averaged just over 7 fantasy points in his next 12 games with his 16.7 points against the Jets in week 15 his only game close to elite. As the Rams struggled, so did Higbee’s value.
That time you almost chucked the remote through the TV
In week 10, the Arizona Cardinals were trailing the Buffalo Bills 30-26 with :11 seconds left in the game. With ball on the Bills’ 43 yard line, Kyler Murray dropped back to pass, evaded a diving Bills defensive end while rolling to his left, then chucked the ball high into the Glendale night before getting shoved out of bounds. Triple covered, DeAndre Hopkins outjumped the Bills’ defenders and came down with the ball to give the Cardinals an improbable 32-30 win. Hail Murray earned a major swing for fantasy owners. Murray had zero touchdowns and just over 200 yards passing at that point and Hopkins went over the 100-yard mark with that catch.
In week 15, the Los Angeles Rams were fighting for a playoff spot in the highly competitive NFC West. Their opponent, the New York Jets, had been the laughing stock of the NFL. Two weeks before, the Jets blew a lead to the Raiders with :05 on the clock on a 46-yard touchdown with a full-out blitz and no deep safeties. So one could assume, every Rams player was a lock for big points, as every offensive player had done to the Jets prior to this game. Except the Jets pulled off the biggest upset of the season, earning their first win as the Rams scrambled to keep the score respectable with 10 fourth quarter points to close the gap.
OK, so Tom Brady took a little time to get warmed up in the Tampa Bay offense. But he still finished as a top-ten fantasy performer and got the job done, leading the Bucs into the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Heading into week 9’s rematch with the Saints, Tampa Bay had won six of their previous seven games, and the GOAT was once again a consistent top-end fantasy performer. Then the Saints blew out the Bucs 38-3 with Brady throwing 3 interceptions and barely over 200 yards for the game, finishing with a whopping 2.36 fantasy points.
Sorry to say but these once un-droppables have likely seen their last action as relevant fantasy performers:
A 17.22 average and 22nd ranking among quarterbacks is a huge fall for a guy considered one of the best players in the modern era.
Although he looked like the old AP in a few games, he averaged 7 fantasy points and ranked 41st among running backs for a Lions team in shambles most of the season.
Ranked 45th among RBs, you have to hand it to the guy for sticking with the Jets until the very end. He had a 6.68 average and finished with two touchdowns.
It didn’t help that his new franchise quarterback went down, but Green’s 67th ranking among receivers and 7.42 average signal the end of a brilliant run.
Did you see that touchdown against Dallas last week? Unfortunately, he’s been injured so often the past two seasons he isn’t worth the risk of one amazing catch a game.
He averaged 4.9 points this season with the Seahawks and is seeking one last chance to go out on top.
Least Valuable Players of the Year
Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints
Thomas and Drew Brees had been a top-five combo for each of the last four seasons. But this season started off with Thomas injuring his ankle in week 1, an injury that plagued him most of the year and put him on the IR for the last 3 weeks. Then, in week 5, he was reportedly suspended for punching a teammate in practice and cursing out his coaches. When he did play, Thomas averaged 12 points in seven games, and two of those games he went for over 100 yards and 19 points against the Falcons, reaffirming that he should be good enough to merit his top-twenty value next season, though it could likely be with another team.
Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Matt Ryan may have been a comparable pick, but at least Ryan managed to remain a valuable top-15 performer whereas Wentz has been terrible all season. He was projected as a top-ten QB at the start of the season but was soon plagued by miserable game after miserable game, slinging the ball all over the field to the other team, taking bad sacks. Before he was benched in week 13, Wentz had 16 touchdowns and a league-leading 13 interceptions for a 16.5 fantasy average, putting him in the category of Derek Carr, Mitch Trubisky, and Jared Goff in terms of reliability.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
Another projected top-five fantasy performer, Elliott’s season was off to a blazing start as the Cowboys back averaged over 22 points after the first five games. But his season took a turn for the worse following Dak Prescott’s injury and a concussion to back-up Andy Dalton. As Dallas relied on Ben DiNucci and Garret Gilbert to save the season, their opponents focused on stopping Elliott and the one-dimensional offense. Elliott averaged 8.3 fantasy points over the next four games, then had a boost against the Vikings before his worst performance of the season against Washington on Thanksgiving Day. With the playoffs still a possibility, Elliott wasn’t completely out of it, but his numbers suggested otherwise.
Greg Oldfield’s stories have appeared in Hobart, Carve, Barrelhouse, and Maudlin House, among others. He also writes about soccer for the Florida Cup and the Brotherly Game and often rambles about soccer on Twitter.