By Jeremy Dennis
As Americans, I can safely say that we love tournaments. The NCAA basketball tournament? Love it! The FCS football tournament? Love it! What a great idea. Maybe other branches of college football could do that? I would also say that the large proportion of sports loving Americans love their fantasy football. With fantasy football draft season starting soon, why not but together a hypothetical tournament? Let’s take the best fantasy football players from each year and create a 16-team tournament to see which year had the best fantasy players.
Here are the rules:
We will use one quarterback, two running backs, two receivers, one flex player, one tight end, one kicker and one defense.
Each player will be determined by the highest average fantasy points in that given year.
Each player must play 16 games. We do not want any surprises at the end of the season where a player does not show up for the finals for some unknown reason. Admittedly, some better players will get cut out such as Antonio Gates in 2005. Other players had to be dropped because they stupidly had a bye week in week 13 (I am talking to you 2016 Demarco Murray). I am sure there will be grumbling, so please contact the Commissioner. Oh wait, I am the Commissioner. I will do what I want (sound familiar?)!
The scoring system will be a typical 0.5 PPR league which can be found in all major FFL outlets.
The teams will be seeded by their average total points per week. So, the #1 seed will be the 2018 team and the #16 seed will be the 2010 team.
Tournament will be a typical single elimination style where the first round will take the statistics from each teams’ representative Week 13 performance. The quarterfinals will use Week 14. The Semis will use Week 15 and the final will use Week 16.
Without further ado, LET’S GET IT ON!
#1 Seed Team 2018 Average Pts. - 157.8 vs #16 Seed Team 2010 Average Pts. - 127.3
QB Patrick Mahomes - Chiefs Aaron Rodgers - Packers
RB1 Saquon Barkley - Giants Arian Foster - Texans
RB2 Christian McCaffrey - Panthers Jamaal Charles - Chiefs
WR1 Tyreek Hill - Chiefs Brandon Lloyd - Broncos
WR2 DeAndre Hopkins - Texas Dwayne Bowe - Chiefs
FL Julio Jones - Falcons Peyton Hillis - Browns
TE Travis Kelce - Chiefs Jason Witten - Cowboys
K Ka’imi Fairbairn - Texans Sebatian Janikowski - Raiders
D Chicago Bears Green Bay Packers
This matchup went about as one would expect. Fairbairn outscored Lloyd, Bowe, Hillis and Janikowski on his own (20 to 19.5). 2018 breezes through the first round 149.4 to 105.3
#9 Seed Team 2004 Average Pts. - 135.6 vs #8 Seed Team 2013 Average Pts. - 136.8
QB Daunte Culpepper - Vikings Peyton Manning - Broncos
RB1 Shaun Alexander - Seahawks LeSean McCoy - Eagles
RB2 Tiki Barber - Giants Matt Forte - Bears
WR1 Mushin Muhammed - Panthers A.J. Green - Bengals
WR2 Javon Walker - Packers Brandon Marshall - Bears
FL Curtis Martin - Jets Marshawn Lynch - Seahawks
TE Tony Gonzalez - Chiefs Jimmy Graham - Saints
K Adam Vinatieri - Patriots Stephen Gostkowski - Patriots
D Pittsburgh Steelers Carolina Panthers
Tight matchup, which is typical for an 8-9 matchup.Curtis Martin started things off with 29.4 points, but it didn’t get any better from there. Peyton’s 31.7 points and a 15 spot from the Carolina defense pushed the 2013 squad through 128.5 - 125.4.
#4 Seed Team 2015 Average Pts. - 144.6 vs #13 Seed Team 2012 Average Pts. - 132.3
QB Cam Newton - Panthers Aaron Rodgers - Packers
RB1 Adrian Peterson - Vikings Adrian Peterson - Vikings
RB2 Doug Martin - Buccaneers Doug Martin - Buccaneers
WR1 Antonio Brown - Steelers Calvin Johnson - Lions
WR2 Julio Jones - Falcons Brandon Marshall - Bears
FL Brandon Marshall - Jets Arian Foster - Texans
TE Gary Barnidge - Browns Tony Gonzalez - Falcons
K Stephen Gostkowski - Patriots Blair Walsh - Vikings
One would think that a team with Blair Walsh as a kicker would be doomed for extinction. In this case, that is a correct assessment. Walsh was good for only a couple of XPs and Newton, Brown, Marshall and the Denver defense scored more than the entire 2012 team. Final - 2015 153.8, 2012 116.5
#2 Seed Team 2006 Average Pts. - 147.5 vs #15 Seed Team 2008 Average Pts. - 127.5
QB Peyton Manning - Colts Drew Brees - Saints
RB1 LaDainian Tomlinson - Chargers DeAngelo Williams - Panthers
RB2 Larry Johnson - Chiefs Michael Turner - Falcons
WR1 Marvin Harrison - Colts Andre Johnson - Texans
WR2 Terrell Owens - Cowboys Larry Fitzgerald - Cardinals
FL Steven Jackson - Rams Matt Forte - Bears
TE Antonio Gates - Chargers Tony Gonzalez - Chiefs
K Robbie Gould - Bears Stephen Gostkowski - Patriots
D Baltimore Ravens Baltimore Ravens
Just like any good tournament, a rousing game with a plucky underdog is always popular. This matchup certainly fits the bill. Manning edged out Brees. Deangelo Williams actually scored more than Tomlinson. The receivers and the flex players were neck and neck. It came down to the two Baltimore defenses. In this battle, the 2008 Ravens outscored the 2006 bunch 18 to 6 and the upset minded 2008 group moves on to the next round, 152.6 to 150.4.
#7 Seed Team 2005 Average Pts. - 137.2 vs #10 Seed Team 2007 Average Pts. - 134.5
QB Carson Palmer - Bengals Tom Brady - Patriots
RB1 Shaun Alexander - Seahawks LaDainian Tomlinson - Chargers
RB2 Larry Johnson - Chiefs Clinton Portis - Redskins
WR1 Steve Smith - Panthers Randy Moss - Patriots
WR2 Larry Fitzgerald - Cardinals Braylon Edwards - Browns
FL LaDainian Tomlinson - Chargers Reggie Wayne - Colts
TE Todd Heap - Ravens Jason Witten - Cowboys
K Neil Rackers - Cardinals Mason Crosby - Packers
D Chicago Bears San Diego Chargers
From a 20,000 foot view, these teams look like they are in the wrong positions. The Brady-Moss tandem was unstoppable in 2007 and L.T., Wayne and Witten weren’t so shabby either. In this contest, the 2007 squad got a strong showing from L.T. (33.2 points), Edwards (24.4 points) and Wayne (25.8 points) to upset the seventh seed 167.9 to 147.5.
#3 Seed Team 2003 Average Pts. - 145.5 vs #14 Seed Team 2017 Average Pts. - 134.5
QB Peyton Manning - Colts Russell Wilson - Seahawks
RB1 Priest Holmes - Chiefs Alvin Kamara - Saints
RB2 LaDainian Tomlinson - Chargers Kareem Hunt - Chiefs
WR1 Randy Moss - Vikings Keenan Allen - Chargers
WR2 Torry Holt - Rams Julio Jones - Falcons
FL Jamal Lewis - Ravens Melvin Gordon - Chargers
TE Tony Gonzalez - Chiefs Jimmy Graham - Seahawks
K Jeff Wilkins - Rams Stephen Gostkowski - Patriots
D New England Patriots Jacksonville Jaguars
You think that in real life the 2017 team would be scared that they would be facing four Hall of Fame players at their primes? Well they should be. All nine players on the 2003 team had double digit points. Priest Holmes led the way with 32.6. The 2003 team coasts to an easy 172.8 to 131.6 victory.
#6 Seed Team 2016 Average Pts. - 142.6 vs #11 Seed Team 2014 Average Pts. - 134.2
QB Aaron Rodgers - Packers Andrew Luck - Colts
RB1 David Johnson - Cardinals DeMarco Murray - Cowboys
RB2 LaGarret Blount - Patriots LeVeon Bell - Steelers
WR1 Jordy Nelson - Packers Antonio Brown - Steelers
WR2 Mike Evans - Buccaneers Demaryius Thomas - Broncos
FL Devontae Freeman - Falcons Marshawn Lynch - Seahawks
K Matt Bryant - Falcons Stephen Gostkowski - Patriots
D Minnesota Vikings Buffalo Bills
Two players from the 2016 Falcons playing someone from the Patriots? Uh-oh…
The QB and RBs from the 2014 team outscore their opposing three 87.7 to 64.7 and the Buffalo defense overshadows Minnesota’s output (18 to 8). The 2014 group is part of the Elite Eight by winning 161.3 to 153.8.
#5 Seed Team 2011 Average Pts. - 143.2 vs #12 Seed Team 2009 Average Pts. - 133.7
QB Aaron Rodgers - Packers Aaron Rodgers - Packers
RB1 Ray Rice - Ravens Chris Johnson - Titans
RB2 Maurice Jones-Drew - Jaguars Adrian Peterson - Vikings
WR1 Calvin Johnson - Lions Randy Moss - Patriots
WR2 Jordy Nelson - Packers Andre Johnson - Texans
FL Wes Welker - Patriots Maurice Jones-Drew - Jaguars
TE Rob Gronkowski - Patriots Vernon Davis - 49ers
K David Akers - 49ers Nate Kaeding - Chargers
D San Francisco 49ers Baltimore Ravens
IN the NCAA College Basketball Tournament, the 5-12 matchup is always ripe with upsets. Unfortunately, that is not the case in this scenario. 2011 Aaron Rodgers beat his 2009 self 31.2 - 21.0 and the 2011 Maurice Jones-Drew outscored his 2009 version 27.8 to 8.7. It was a walk in the park for 2011. Final Score - 178.3 to 129.4
Here is a quick look at the remaining match-ups:
Game 1 = #1 Seed 2018 vs #8 Seed 2013
Game 2 = #4 Seed 2015 vs #5 Seed 2011
Game 3 = #10 Seed 2007 vs #15 Seed 2008
Game 4 = #3 Seed 2003 vs #11 Seed 2014
Things were looking bleak for the #1 seed early. Manning, McCoy and Forte had outscored Mahomes, Barkley and McCaffrey 94.5 to 73.5. While the receivers were even, Julio Jones breathed a little life into the flex position for the 2018 squad with a 26 point performance. However, the score stood 167.7 to 149.8 with only the 2018 Monday Night game left featuring the Bears and Rams. The Chicago Bears flexed their defensive muscles against Sean McVay’s club and dropped a 20-spot on them. The #1 seed comes back to defeat a plucky 2013 squad, 169.8 to 167.7
You can’t feel good with any team that has a Cleveland Brown in it for the playoffs. This is also true for Cam Newton in a pressure situation. It was evident in this battle as the 2011 group was just too strong. Maurice Jones-Drew laid down 40.6 points against Tampa Bay and Gronk was at his best with 31.0 points. Team 2011 defeats 2015 easily, 169.6 to 128.5
The battle of the upset seeds! The good news for 2008 was that everyone scored in double digits. The bad news was that outside of DeAngelo Williams 31.7 points, no one else on the team scored more than 18. 2007 Patriots Tom Brady and Randy Moss hooked up for a total of 60 points. Tomlinson had 25.8 and Jason Witten put up 27.3 as we have our first double-digit seed in the Final Four. 2007 wins 169.7 to 149.5
The favored 2003 team looked like they were in trouble early. DeMarco Murray and LeVeon Bell combined for 77.8 points right out of the gate for 2014 and 2003’s Manning and Holmes only had 21.9 points. However, Tomlinson (30.1), Moss (29.3), and Lewis (34.0) brought 2003 back. Finally, the New England defense benefitted from a snowstorm and a punch-less Miami offense to put up 29 points. This seals the 173.7 to 158.1 win.
We are down to the final four teams. Three of the top five seeds still remain with the plucky #10 seed 2007 team being anchored down by the Brady - Moss tandem. Here are the match-ups that decide which to team vie for the Fantasy Football Championship:
Semi-final 1: #1 Seed 2018 vs. #5 Seed 2011
On the surface, the 2011 squad had two battles to fight. First, they were playing the #1 seed. Secondly, all but one of their match-ups would be played on the road. Both teams had games on Thursday night with mediocre results: Maurice Jones-Drew had only 11.8 points against a surprising Atlanta defense. With Kansas City playing the Chargers in 2018, Mahomes, Hill and Kelce had a chance to put up some big numbers. In the end, they only combined for 33 points. So after Thursday, 2018 was up 33-12 but had already used three of their stars.
The 1 o’clock games on Sunday found Rodgers and Nelson facing a stingy Kansas City defense for the 2011 team. Kansas City did not disappoint, holding the pair to 23.1 points. On the 2018 side, the Texans-Jets game turned into a bonanza for the #1 Seed. DeAndre Hopkins had a team high 34 points and Ka’imi Fairbairn had five field goals for another 22 points. Julio Jones added another 17 against the Cardinals. It turned out that they needed this cushion since Saquon only had 5.6 points as the Giants laid an egg against Tennessee.
With the 1pm games complete, 2018 is up 119.8 to 34.9.
The rest of the Sunday games gave 2011 a chance to catch up since McCaffrey was the last player for 2018 and he was going Monday night. Calvin Johnson quickly gave the underdogs hope with a 37.9 point performance at Oakland. However, the news was not so good at Mile-High where New England was playing the Broncos. Welker and Gronkowski were limited to 13.4 combined points. While Ray Rice had a fair game against the Chargers on Sunday night, Team 2011 was in need of a miracle being down 119.8 to 101.9 with McCaffrey to play against the Saints for 2018 and the kicker and defense for San Francisco to play against Pittsburgh on the 2011 side. Despite the 49er defense’s best effort, McCaffrey managed enough points to stave off the #5 seed and head to the finals, winning 135.8 to 127.9.
Semi-final #2: #3 Seed 2003 vs #10 Seed 2007
Ah yes! Another Manning-Brady match-up! Hopefully, the past records for these two are not an indication of performance for a fantasy football championship. Most of the play occurred in the Sunday 1 o’clock slot. The 2003 group had solid play from Torry Holt and Randy Moss (19 and 19.8 points). Then the fireworks started. Manning put up 31 points as the Colts lambasted Atlanta. Priest Holmes served up 34.1 and his tight end teammate put in 24.3 as the Chiefs dominated the Lions. For the 2007 team, things were looking bleak. New England had to play through more crappy weather which resulted in the Brady-Moss combo turning in only 14.3 points combined. Braylon Edwards only had 8.4. When your kicker outscores everyone in the early time slot (19 points), you know there is trouble.
After 1 o’clock: 2003 leads 2007 147.2 to 41.7
I would love to give you suspense as to what would happen with the late games. However, the 2003 version of LaDanian Tomlinson put up a whopper against the Lions with 37 points. L.T. 2007 only had 25.3 and that was all she wrote.
Final score Team 2003 196.7 points Team 2007 128.8
Here we go, ladies and gentlemen! We have the 2018 team with the number one seed and the 2003 team which has blown through this imaginary tournament averaging 180 points per game. It should be a good one! (I hope…)
Team 2003 would get a head start in this one as they would have four participants in Saturday action. Kansas City was facing Minnesota which pitted Randy Moss vs Priest Holmes and Tony Gonzalez. The Chiefs and Vikings combined for 65 points on this day. Which means the three gentlemen would combine for 3 touchdowns and 65.4 fantasy points. Throw in the New England Defense which delivered a touchdown and five interceptions against the hapless Jets and the #3 seed was up 86 points before 2018 got a snap.
Once the 1 o’clock games started to wrap up, it was clear who the champion would be. While the 2003 Juggernaut was putting up numbers like 24.9 (Tomlinson), 23.4 (Holt) and 36.1 (Lewis), the #1 seed was responding with Saquon Barkley’s 16.2, DeAndre Hopkins 14.9 and Ka’imi Fairbairn (who had been solid through the tournament) missing an extra point and only providing 4 points. Granted, the 2018 squad still had six players left to play, they were now down 181.8 to 35.1.
The late games seemed to start well for 2018 with Christian McCaffrey posting 23.8 points. At this point, they would need the rest of the players to average that much to have a chance. As the 4pm games game to an end, Julio Jones had 10.8 and the Chicago defense only turned in seven points. I would love to say that the trio of Mahomes, Hill and Kelce would miraculously come up with 100 points while Peyton Manning lost a couple dozen, it was not meant to be.
Championship Final 2003 Team 187.3
2018 Team 119.3
What an interesting outcome! Especially with talk about how offenses have changed and that there is more scoring in this day and age. In this exercise, it looks like the current Hall of Famers still have a leg up on the future Hall of Famers. We will see what happens with the 2019 version.