Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The 2011 NFL fantasy football season is over for the most part (there are still a few fantasy playoff leagues running) so its time to dole out the awards for a job well done...or not.
NFC First Team
QB - Drew Brees, New Orleans - We start off the awards with the toughest category to choose from - bar none. What with Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Eli Manning and Cam Newton to pick from, this spot was full of talented quarterbacks. Still, breaking a 27-year-old record for yards passing in a single season (5,476) and leading all quarterbacks is fantasy scoring (410 points) forced our hand. Brees is our No.1 pick. Runner up: Rodgers.
RB - LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia - As good as the quarterback position was, the running back position was a bit on the weak side. McCoy finished the year with a league-leading 20 touchdowns (17 rushing, three receiving) and 1,309 yards rushing for 306 fantasy points. Runner-up; Marshawn Lynch.
WR - Calvin Johnson, Detroit - Johnson began the season with four consecutive games of two touchdown receptions and finished with 560 yards and four touchdowns from Week 14-17 to dominate the playoffs. He had eight 100-yard days and 16 touchdown receptions for 344 fantasy points which was 59 points better than the second-place finisher in the NFC. Runner up: Victor Cruz.
TE - Jimmy Graham, New Orleans - Graham was one of two tight ends to break a 31-year old mark for receiving yards in a single season by a tight end. A back problem slowed him in the second half of the season or he'd have likely beaten AFC winner Rob Gronkowski too. Runner up: Tony Gonzalez.
K - David Akers, San Francisco - Akers set a record with 44 field goals including seven from 50 yards-or-more. He was the only kicker to average more than 10 ppg. Runner up: John Kasay.
Defense/Special Teams - San Francisco 49ers - The 49ers easily out-distanced the Chicago Bears with 194 fantasy points including eight weeks in which they scored double-digits. Runner up: Bears.
AFC First Team
QB - Tom Brady, New England - Brees wasn't the only quarterback to break Dan Marino's 1984 single season passing mark of 5,084 yards. Brady threw for 5,235 yards and did it without much of a deep threat. Only twice did he throw less than two touchdown passes in a game and he posted at least 14 points in all 16 games. Runner up: Philip Rivers.
RB - Ray Rice, Baltimore - With Willis McGahee in Denver, Rice added the one feature to his game that had been missing in the past - red zone touchdown opportunities. Rice scored a career-high 12 rushing touchdowns to go along with three receiving TDs and a league-leading 2,068 yards from scrimmage worth 355 fantasy points. Runner up: Arian Foster.
WR - Wes Welker, New England - With a league-leading 122 receptions, Welker killed it in PPR leagues. He was pretty good in non-PPR leagues too with 1,569 yards receiving and nine touchdown catches. Runner up: Mike Wallace.
TE - Rob Gronkowski, New England - Gronkowski simply had the best-ever year for a tight end in the history of fantasy football, or for that matter in the NFL. He caught 90 balls for a record 1,327 yards and scored 18 times (17 receiving, one rushing) worth 291 fantasy points. He crushed the second-place finisher, his teammate by 120 points. Runner up: Aaron Hernandez.
K - Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland - The Raiders kicker has the strongest leg in the league and his 35 field goals, including seven from 50 yards-or-more, was the best in the AFC. Runner up: Stephen Gostkowski.
Defense/Special Teams - Baltimore Ravens - The Ravens got off to a fast start and held on to edge the Texans for best AFC D/ST. They scored 76 of their 174 points in the first four weeks. Runner up: Houston Texans.
Fantasy MVP - Brees was the third quarterback off the board in most leagues, but turned in a virtuoso performance worthy of the award. He was particularly good in the fantasy playoffs, averaging 363 passing yards and 3.33 touchdowns worth 29.9 ppg when the championship was on the line. Rodgers averaged just 22.9 ppg in the fantasy playoffs and that is the difference between these two superstars.
Fantasy Bust - It would be easy to name Jamaal Charles, a top-five fantasy pick in most leagues, but his failure was due to injury. Instead, we gave the dubious award to Peyton Hillis for his failure to come anywhere close to expectations. Hillis posted 1,654 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns last season and was picked at the end of the second round in most leagues. He "rewarded" his fantasy owners with just 717 total yards and just three touchdowns in 2011. Blame it on the "Madden Curse."
Comeback Player of the Year - Marshawn Lynch was forced out of Buffalo in mid-2010 and it looked like his football career was in big trouble. That all changed in 2011 and Lynch became the "toast of the town" in Seattle after putting together a magnificent season. He posted career highs in rushing yards (1,204), touchdowns (13) and yards from scrimmage (1,416). Lynch finished sixth among running backs with 238 fantasy points.
Rookie of the Year - This was the easiest category to determine. Cam Newton began his career with consecutive 400-yard passing days and finished with 4,051 passing yards along with 35 touchdowns (record 14 via the run) to garner 351 fantasy points and finish with the fifth-most points overall.
Fantasy Sleeper (rounds 5-10); QB - Matthew Stafford, RB - Reggie Bush, TE - Jimmy Graham, WR - Percy Harvin
Fantasy Sleeper (rounds 11-20); QB - Cam Newton, RB - Darren Sproles, WR - Torrey Smith, TE - Rob Gronkowski
Free Agent Pickup of the Year - Victor Cruz wasn't on any radar screen until Week 3 in Philadelphia. His coming out party began with a 74-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter as he went on to post the first of seven 100-yard receiving days. During the fantasy playoffs he caught 14 balls for 386 yards and two touchdowns. He finished the season as the No.3 scoring wideout behind Calvin Johnson and Wes Welker. Not bad for a free agent.