The 2009 NFP Fantasy Awards

With the 2010 Pro Bowl rosters being announced on Tuesday, now seems like the perfect time to release the 2009 NFP Fantasy Awards.

After sifting through emails, text messages and comments, I’ve put together a deserving class of first-team fantasy stars and award winners. Some of these picks you’ll agree with, some you won’t. But that’s what the comments section is for, so feel free to let me know what you think when you realize that Colts quarterback Peyton Manning did NOT make first team all-fantasy.

And remember, next week I’ll be releasing the all-bust team and 2009 Bust Awards, so stay tuned.

Drum roll, please…

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

Chris Johnson Running Back Tennessee Titans

How do you define value? The most popular argument is to see what happens if you take the player in question off the fantasy team. Does the team sink or does it survive? While quarterbacks such as Drew Brees and Peyton Manning brought a high level of value and consistency to your squads this season, an injury to either player could have led you to Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton or Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell, both of whom finished in the top 18 in scoring among fantasy quarterbacks.

But what would have happened to your team if Johnson had gone down with an injury? I’ll tell you what: You would have lost one of the greatest single-season statistical performers in the history of the NFL. At the running back position, losing a star like Johnson is what leads to an offseason of ridicule from the other members of your league because you failed to make the playoffs.

Through 16 weeks, Johnson is the fantasy world’s highest scoring running back and is currently holding a 46-point lead on second-place rusher Adrian Peterson (standard scoring), who many experts (us included) had ranked No. 1 to open the season.

With a rare combination of open-field speed, burst and vision, Johnson is 128 rushing yards away from 2,000 for the season, has ripped off 10 consecutive games with 100-plus yards on the ground, has 47 receptions and has racked up 14 total touchdowns, 11 in his last nine games.

The guy is a beast, and after Sunday’s performance against the Seattle Seahawks, many of us will be targeting Johnson No. 1 overall next August.

SLEEPER OF THE YEAR

Miles Austin Wide Receiver Dallas Cowboys

The fourth-year veteran out of Monmouth (N.J.) opened the season behind Roy Williams on the depth chart and battled Patrick Crayton for the No. 2 spot. After four games, Austin had caught just five passes for 81 yards and a touchdown.

Then came a Week 5 date against the Chiefs in Kansas City.

Austin went off like a nuclear bomb against the Chiefs, hauling in 10 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns for a staggering 37 fantasy points. Roy Williams continued to tell the media that he was the No. 1 wideout in Big D, but it fell on deaf ears as fantasy owners scrambled to the waiver wire in the hopes of landing the next big thing.

Through 16 weeks, Austin ranks fifth in receiving yards (1,230), fourth in touchdowns (11) and third in receptions of 40 or more yards (7). He’s found the end zone in eight of his last 11 games and is currently a top-five fantasy wideout in standard-scoring leagues.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

Beanie Wells Running Back Arizona Cardinals

You can make the case for Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno (who has scored more fantasy points than Wells this season) or Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin (who leads all rookie wideouts in fantasy points), but Wells is getting the nod from the NFP.

Why? Because he got the job done when it mattered.

In a year that featured several solid performances from a variety of rookie skill players, Wells won the award because of his numbers during the most important weeks of the season (14, 15 and 16) -- the fantasy playoffs.

In his last three outings, the rookie bruiser from Ohio State amassed 319 total yards and three touchdowns for an average of 16.3 fantasy points per week. He’s scored seven touchdowns on the season and is averaging an impressive 4.6 yards per carry.

Like I said, you can make the case for several other rookies, but in a year when there was no clear-cut leader, Wells won the hardware because he stepped up in the clutch.

WAIVER-WIRE ACQUISITION OF THE YEAR

Jamaal Charles Running Back Kansas City Chiefs

Through the first seven weeks of the season, aging malcontent Larry Johnson was running the show in the Kansas City backfield. And I use the term “running the show” loosely because he was averaging only 2.8 yards per carry with zero touchdowns through seven contests.

For those of you who subscribed to the Total Access Pass, you know I was calling for Johnson’s head and Charles’ promotion by roughly Week 3 when it became apparent the former Penn State running back no longer had the speed or power to get out to the second level and make defenders miss.

Then, fantasy owners got their wish. L.J. went on a homophobic twitter tirade that led to his dismissal from the Chiefs. Charles stepped in and became fantasy gold as the second-year back out of Texas racked up 890 total yards and six touchdowns in just eight games.

Kansas City may be a bad football team, but Charles was a fantasy stud. Owners who were quick on the trigger picked up a rock-solid fantasy option who’s currently ranked 19th among running backs in standard-scoring formats.

THE “I TOLD YOU SO” AWARD

Vincent Jackson & Brandon Marshall Wide Receivers San Diego Chargers/Denver Broncos

I’m going to keep this one short because bragging is something I don’t like to do (although I end up doing it anyway).

There’s no fantasy publication on the planet that can tell you they had Vincent Jackson rated higher than we did heading into 2009. Why? Two reasons: First, everyone thought the return of a healthy L.T. would be the end of the Chargers’ high-octane passing attack. And second, because San Diego is the least talked about football team in the country, which leads to superstars like V-Jax being overlooked.

As far as Marshall is concerned, owners hit the panic button the second he got suspended from the team during the preseason, prompting a flood of emails asking why we hadn’t dropped him further down our draft rankings.

The reason? Because the guy is a stud wideout playing for a new contract, that’s why.

Through 16 weeks, Jackson is ranked seventh in scoring among fantasy wideouts with 1,167 yards and nine touchdowns. Marshall is ranked eighth and is headed to the Pro Bowl.

And I bet neither one of them was drafted before Roddy White or Steve Smith (Carolina), both of whom trail Jackson and Marshall in fantasy points.

VALUE PICK OF THE YEAR

Ray Rice Running Back Baltimore Ravens

According to FantasyFootballCalculator.com, Rice’s average draft position in a 10-team league entering the 2009 season was 5.01, which means he was usually selected at the start of the fifth round.

Things might be a little different next season.

The second-year running back out of Rutgers burst onto the scene in 2009 as Rice has piled up 1,952 total yards and seven touchdowns through 16 weeks. He’s averaging 5.3 yards per carry and leads all NFL running backs in receptions (74) and targets (94).

The epitome of a dual-threat back, Rice possesses great balance and excellent lower-body strength. He’s currently ranked fourth in scoring among fantasy running backs in standard-scoring formats and is a sure-fire top-five pick come next August. For those of you who play in a keeper league, this guy will be the cornerstone of your team next season.

STANDOUT PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR

Chris Johnson Running Back Tennessee Titans

Week 2: Sept. 20 vs. Houston Texans

I remember exactly where I was when this game went down.

The Philadelphia Eagles were hosting the New Orleans Saints and I was sitting next to author and movie producer Alan Donnes in the Philadelphia press box at Lincoln Financial Field. It was a sunny autumn day and the Birds were trailing the Saints 10-7 in the first quarter.

From the press box at the Linc, you can look through the windows to the other side of the field and see the big scrolling scoreboard which keeps fans updated on what’s going on around the league. The Houston-Tennessee score kept lighting up, with touchdowns being scored at an alarming pace.

Then, from the back of the press box, you heard a member of the media say, “Chris Johnson is ridiculous.”

Instantly, I -- and everyone around me -- brought up the game on our computers to see what was going on. With 2:13 left in the first quarter, the Titans led the Texans 14-7 behind a 57-yard touchdown run and 69-yard touchdown reception, both from Johnson.

Tennessee ended up losing 34-31, but not before Johnson left his mark on history. The second-year running back rushed for 197 yards and two touchdowns and chipped in 87 receiving yards and one score en route to a 45-point fantasy performance for the ages.

When the dust settled, Johnson had racked up 284 total yards and three scores on just 25 touches, for an eye-popping average of 11.3 yards per touch.

Oh yeah. That third touchdown he scored? It was a 91-yard run in the third quarter. Check out Johnson’s burst in this video:

IDP PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Brian Cushing Outside Linebacker Houston Texans

Before you get your panties in a bunch and start screaming about Jared Allen and Patrick Willis, you have to understand that this award isn’t just about stats. It’s also about value. Allen and Willis were studs this season, but you had to use a higher draft pick to get them. Cushing, on the other hand, was probably sitting on waivers.

The rookie linebacker out of USC produced in a big way, ranking fifth in the NFL in tackles (128) and racking up four sacks, 10 pass deflections, four interceptions and two forced fumbles.

His addition to the Houston dark side improved their rushing defense from 23rd in 2008 to 13th in 2009. In addition, the Texans ranked 27th in points allowed last year and rank 15th this season.

And it isn’t just me who thinks this kid is nasty. Cushing was voted into the Pro Bowl as a starter.

FIRST TEAM NFP ALL-FANTASY

QUARTERBACK

Aaron Rodgers Green Bay Packers: You expected Peyton Manning or Drew Brees? Sorry, but neither of those guys has scored more fantasy points (standard scoring) than Rodgers. The Green Bay signal-caller ranks fifth in passing yards (4,199), third in passing touchdowns (29), first in rushing yards among quarterbacks (302) and first in rushing touchdowns among quarterbacks (4). The Packers are headed to the playoffs, Rodgers is going to the Pro Bowl and fantasy owners are gearing up to select the Green Bay quarterback a lot quicker in 2010 than they did in 2009.

Second Team: Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints)

RUNNING BACK

Chris Johnson Tennessee Titans: We’ve already talked about him enough in this article, so you get the idea.

Adrian Peterson Minnesota Vikings: You drafted him first overall for a reason and he didn’t disappoint (well, maybe a little bit lately). All Day has rushed for 17 touchdowns (first) and 1,335 yards (third) this season. Shockingly, he’s only topped 100 rushing yards three times in 16 games, but the Vikings workhorse is still averaging 16.3 fantasy points per week, which ranks second in the NFL among running backs. He’s even added a new dimension to his game, catching 42 passes (13th) for 435 yards (fifth).

Maurice Jones-Drew Jacksonville Jaguars: A dynamic weapon who possesses the power to grind out the extra yards and the burst and explosiveness to hit the home run, MJD delivered the goods in his first year as a full-time workhorse. The former UCLA Bruin has rushed for 1,309 yards (fifth) and 15 touchdowns (second), while catching 52 passes (fourth) for 368 yards (11th). What’s most impressive is that he pulled off those numbers while running behind an offensive line anchored by two rookies (Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton).

Second Team: Ray Rice (Baltimore Ravens), Thomas Jones (New York Jets)

WIDE RECEIVER

Andre Johnson Houston Texans: An absolute beast in every sense of the word, Johnson dropped jaws and broke ankles for 16 weeks on his way to the top of the heap among fantasy wide receivers. His 2009 stat line is nothing short of amazing: first in targets (163), fourth in receptions (95), first in receiving yards (1,504) and seventh in touchdowns (9). The guy can beat you on the outside with speed, down the field with balance or in the red zone with pure power. Still not sold? Check out this video and then tell me this guy isn’t for real:

Randy Moss New England Patriots: He’s not a Pro Bowl starter this season and his work ethic has been called into question, but numbers don’t lie. And in the world of fantasy football, numbers are what matter. Moss may have caught only 78 passes through 16 weeks, but he leads all NFL wide receivers in touchdowns (13) and ranks seventh in receiving yards (1,189). You can call it a down year if you want, but the guy still ranks second in scoring among fantasy wideouts in standard-scoring formats. And I’ll bet you Moss owners really appreciated the three touchdowns he scored on championship weekend.

Miles Austin Dallas Cowboys: Several of you may not agree with this selection since Austin was irrelevant during the first four weeks of the season. And some of you may feel that Colts wideout Reggie Wayne is more deserving. But look at it this way: Wayne scored only one touchdown in his final four games and topped 100 receiving yards just once in his last six contests. Not the way you close out a season, especially during the fantasy playoffs. Meanwhile, Austin finished third in scoring among fantasy wide receivers despite little action over the first month of the season. He found the end zone four times in his final five games while topping 100 yards receiving in three of those five contests. That’s what you call clutch.

Second Team: Reggie Wayne (Indianapolis Colts), DeSean Jackson (Philadelphia Eagles), Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona Cardinals)

TIGHT END

Vernon Davis San Francisco 49ers: I know, I know. You thought this one was going to be Dallas Clark, right? Well, despite the fact Clark edged out Davis by four fantasy points for the top spot in scoring among tight ends, Davis came at a MUCH better value and had to play with Alex Smith and Shaun Hill -- not Peyton Manning -- at quarterback. And that, my friends, is why Davis is on the NFP first team. He posted career highs in receptions (72), yards (876) and touchdowns (12). In addition, no tight end in the league found the end zone more than Davis this season. When Alex Smith took over at quarterback for the Niners, Davis caught six or more passes in five of his final 10 games.

Second Team: Dallas Clark (Indianapolis Colts)

DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS

Philadelphia Eagles: Longtime defensive coordinator/mastermind Jim Johnson passed away, Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins signed with the Denver Broncos and starting middle linebacker Stewart Bradley blew out his knee…all before the start of the regular season. Before you start firing the emails, check out where the Eagles D/ST ranks this season in some of fantasy’s most important categories:

Interceptions (24): First

Sacks (42): Third

Fumble Recoveries (13): Third

D/ST Touchdowns (6): Second

Safeties (2): First

Fantasy Points Scored (230): First

Second Team: New Orleans Saints

KICKER

David Akers Philadelphia Eagles: Just like last year, I’m keeping this one short. Akers scored the most fantasy points among kickers, so he wins. End of story.

Second Team: Nate Kaeding (San Diego Chargers)

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

Upcoming Games

Oct 25th, 1:00 PM

Carolina +7 -110

New Orleans -7 -110

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Oct 25th, 1:00 PM

Green Bay -3.5 -110

Houston +3.5 -110

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Oct 25th, 1:00 PM

Buffalo -10.5 -110

NY Jets +10.5 -110

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Oct 25th, 1:00 PM

Detroit +2.5 -110

Atlanta -2.5 -110

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Oct 25th, 1:00 PM

Cleveland -3 +105

Cincinnati +3 +105

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Oct 25th, 1:00 PM

Dallas 0 -110

Washington 0 -110

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Oct 25th, 1:00 PM

Pittsburgh +1.5 -110

Tennessee -1.5 -110

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Oct 25th, 4:05 PM

Tampa Bay -4 -110

Las Vegas +4 -110

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Oct 25th, 4:25 PM

Kansas City -8 -110

Denver +8 -110

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Oct 25th, 4:25 PM

San Francisco +2.5 -110

New England -2.5 -110

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Oct 25th, 4:25 PM

Jacksonville +7.5 -110

LA Chargers -7.5 -110

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Oct 25th, 8:20 PM

Seattle -3.5 -120

Arizona +3.5 -120

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Oct 26th, 8:15 PM

Chicago +6 -110

LA Rams -6 -110

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Oct 29th, 8:20 PM

Atlanta +2.5 -115

Carolina -2.5 -115

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Nov 1st, 1:00 PM

Pittsburgh +5.5 -105

Baltimore -5.5 -105

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Nov 1st, 1:00 PM

Minnesota +7 -110

Green Bay -7 -110

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Nov 1st, 1:00 PM

NY Jets +21 -110

Kansas City -21 -110

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Nov 1st, 1:00 PM

Indianapolis -3 -125

Detroit +3 -125

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Nov 1st, 1:00 PM

Tennessee -4 -110

Cincinnati +4 -110

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Nov 1st, 1:00 PM

Las Vegas +3 -115

Cleveland -3 -115

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Nov 1st, 1:00 PM

New England +2.5 -110

Buffalo -2.5 -110

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Nov 1st, 1:00 PM

LA Rams -3.5 -105

Miami +3.5 -105

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Nov 1st, 4:05 PM

LA Chargers -1 -105

Denver +1 -105

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Nov 1st, 4:25 PM

San Francisco +5 -105

Seattle -5 -105

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Nov 1st, 4:25 PM

New Orleans -3 -105

Chicago +3 -105

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Nov 1st, 8:20 PM

Dallas +3.5 -110

Philadelphia -3.5 -110

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