The fantasy football award winners of the 2023 NFL season

Author

I like awards and award shows, even if they drive me crazy sometimes. How could Forrest Gump win Best Picture over Pulp Fiction and Shawshank Redemption? How could Eli Manning win Super Bowl MVP over Justin Tuck in SB42? Did Mark Moseley really win the NFL MVP in 1982? A kicker? (It really happened, kids.)

But it’s the time of year to look back and document winners and losers, give out a little hardware. Send your tuxedo to the dry cleaners and meet us on the red carpet.

Fantasy Player of the Year: Christian McCaffrey, RB, 49ers

The most impactful thing you can do for your fantasy chances is to land the best running back, and that’s especially true this year when McCaffrey put over 100 points between him and the next-closest pursuer. McCaffrey’s role in a Kyle Shanahan offense was downright unfair, enabling McCaffrey to have the best rushing efficiency of his career (5.4 YPC) and remarkable consistency around the goal line (touchdowns in 13 starts). The only downside to McCaffrey: his worst game of the year (and a mild injury) hit in Week 17. But he drove many teams to the fantasy finals regardless.

Fantasy Draft Pick of the Year: Raheem Mostert, RB, Dolphins

Mostert had a global ADP around 115 at the end of draft season, and maybe that seemed optimistic — Mostert was stepping into an age-31 season and was coming off a good-not-great RB26 showing. Given his age, size and history of breaking down, Mostert looked more like a depth player or a Win-September pick than a long-term solution. Alas, the talented Mostert stayed healthy for most of the season and had a monster year, finishing as the fantasy RB2 through 17 weeks. He scored an absurd 21 touchdowns in 15 games, and he was consistent with those scores, finding the end zone 13 times in 15 starts.

Fantasy Coach of the Year: Sean McVay, Rams

McVay is the opposite of Arthur Smith — the Rams have taken an offense filled with lower-drafted players and turned it into fantasy gold. Kyren Williams was the 164th pick in the 2022 draft, and Puka Nacua was the 177th selection in the 2023 draft; no one expected much in August. McVay’s schemes and usage turned both of them into fantasy stars and the two most important waiver selections of the year.

The Buccaneers offense did two things that fed fantasy success: it creatively schemed a comeback year from Baker Mayfield (take a bow, OC Dave Canales) and it steered the ball to a very narrow set of skill players. Rachaad White was a dead-zone hero for the running back crowd, Mike Evans continued his run to the Hall of Fame and Chris Godwin maintained a WR3 profile despite an unlucky year with touchdowns. Maybe the narrow trees grow in Florida because the Dolphins also steered most of their production to a small group of players.

Touchdown Wizard Award: Courtland Sutton, WR, Broncos

Sutton is one of just four players to have double-digit receiving touchdowns, and he’s done it on a modest 86 targets. And remember, those are Russell Wilson targets — not exactly plated in gold. Sutton made his hay this year as a dynamite player in tight spaces and near the boundaries, and at one point he scored seven times in eight weeks. It’s surprising the Broncos didn’t prioritize him more.

Mingo’s rookie year hasn’t really launched yet, with 85 targets, a modest 9.7 YPC and zero touchdowns. To be fair, occasionally he was wide open and Bryce Young couldn’t make the connection. But Mingo hasn’t looked like a playmaker during his debut.

Mahomes might not be completely blameless for his second-half funk, but Kansas City’s offensive slump is probably more about an ordinary receiver room.

I will forever swear that Wilson was going to the moon in his second season, but Aaron Rodgers got hurt on the first series of the year and the Jets never found a fix at quarterback.

All of your signature Falcons count here as well; Arthur Smith has all the tools but none of the user manuals, apparently.

I will never blame McLaurin for so-so stats in Washington — look at the quarterbacks he’s been saddled with.

Most Underrated Fantasy Player: Jordan Love, QB, Packers

Love was the QB2 over the final eight weeks of the year, and if you prefer a per-game rank, he still charts as the QB5. Love thrived in the Matt LaFleur offense despite the youngest receiver room in the league, and pesky injuries to Christian Watson, Jayden Reed and Aaron Jones. Love was a top-nine quarterback in 5-of-7 starts down the stretch.

Regular touches and goal-line equity kept all of these backs in the top 10 at fantasy’s most important position (Etienne was RB3, Mixon RB7, Henry RB8), masking some troubling efficiency trends. All of these feature backs had mediocre per-carry averages, under the 4.0 that we consider the position minimum. Mixon turns 28 next year, Henry 30. They will be nervous picks next summer.

Non-Injury Fantasy Disappointment of the Year: Tony Pollard, RB, Cowboys

Pollard was a second-round pick in most leagues and percolated into the first round on a few occasions, seen as a player who could explode as a freshly minted feature back. But Pollard never found his groove, watching his yards per touch drop from 5.9 to 4.3. His passing-game chops were a notable problem, and he also struggled to convert in short-yardage situations. Despite playing in 16 games, Pollard merely charted as the WR18.

Fantasy Rookie of the Year: Sam LaPorta, TE, Lions

It was a pretty good year for rookies, and I understand why the terrific C.J. Stroud will win Offensive Rookie of the Year — in the NFL, success is all about the quarterback. But for fantasy purposes, I prefer LaPorta grabbing the TE1 mantle over Stroud’s QB13 season (he’s QB11 if you prefer a per-start model). Other rookies worth some props: Puka Nacua, Rashee Rice, Zay Flowers, Tank Dell, Bijan Robinson, Jahmyr Gibbs and De’Von Achane.

The Browns’ passing game was stuck in neutral through three different starters, but Flacco hopped off his couch and turned Amari Cooper and David Njoku into wrecking balls down the stretch.

Maybe the George Pickens comeback came too late to really help fantasy managers, but we note that the spark came from Rudolph, the surprising right answer in the Pittsburgh quarterback room.

Fantasy Innovation of the Year: NFL Sunday Ticket shifts to YouTube

I was a little nervous when DirecTV lost the NFL Sunday Ticket contract, even as I had some critiques of the product. Sometimes it’s more comforting with the devil you know. But YouTube picked up the baton and improved an essential product, setting up a user-friendly interface that included the long-overdue customization of split-screen programming. This is the most important tech advancement for fantasy football since NFL RedZone entered our lives 14 years ago.

Well played, YouTube. You’ve made my Sundays better.

Share This Article
Leave a comment