2020 Season: The First Annual Lateral Awards!

 

Charles Herrmann (@HermsNFL)
The Lateral Chief Editor

Malcolm McMillan (@McLateralFF)
The Lateral Writer

Hopefully, you caught our livestream on Thursday, but just in case we thought it would be good to put this on good, old-fashioned... digital? Anyway, the point here is not the rapid pace of technology and the potential consequences it will have on our crumbling society, but fantasy football! 

Seriously though, this year was wild. Between COVID-19, the complete collapse of the Patriots dynasty, and the slew of injuries that came with no preseason, there has never felt like a less predictable season than 2020. Which made it the perfect time to start a fantasy football blog! So like any good fantasy football content creators, we had to come out with our own annual awards. Enjoy.

2020 Season: The First Annual Lateral Awards!

Fantasy MVP

CH: I look at this based on the ROI. Sure, Saints RB Alvin Kamara was insanely good, but you drafted him to be that guy for your fantasy squad. On a relative scale, I would say that while a player like that is incredibly valuable, that’s not exactly a surprise.

Looking back at the FantasyPros 2020 PPR Average Draft Position (ADP), you’ll find one guy who really stands out from the pack. The #65 overall player/WR27 entering the season, Bills WR Stefon Diggs absolutely shattered expectations and ended up at WR3 on the season mere decimal points behind WR2 Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill!

While there are several quality, deserving candidates for this award, I’ve got to hand it to Diggs. His own QB Josh Allen finishing the season atop the QBs deserves a huge level of credit, but I err toward the side of giving his shiny new weapon in the offense the shoutout here.

MM: For me, the combination of value and actual performance makes it a pretty easy case for WR Stefon Diggs (BUF). I talked about this a bit in my 2020 season postmortem back at the end of Week 16, but the value of Diggs as a fifth-rounder that finished WR3 is tough to beat. Only James Robinson provided greater value finishing RB4 as a largely undrafted player, but he was not as likely to win you a championship as Diggs was. 

Two stats really separate Diggs from Robinson when it comes down to it. First, the sheer difference in points scored. Despite finishing RB4 compared to Diggs' WR3, Robinson finished with a significant 63.6 PPR points less than Diggs, and even if Robinson had played in Week 16 he was not closing that gap. Second, in the fantasy playoffs (Week 13 to Week16), while Robinson averaged a more than respectable 16.5 PPR points he fell far short of Diggs' astronomical 28.9 PPR PPG. In fact, only Bills QB Josh Allen averaged more PPG or scored more total points over the fantasy playoffs. Allen also certainly deserved consideration for MVP, but he cost you more to get comparatively at QB9 vs Diggs at WR27. WR27 would not even be a regular starter in an ESPN standard league.

Fantasy Rookie of the Year

CH: This is one that could go in plenty of different directions and I don’t know that I would argue against any pick for this award. But as far as I’m concerned, anyone who can go from undrafted rookie status to the PPR RB7 on the year (RB4 through Week 16) takes the damn cake for me. Jaguars RB James Robinson showed up in a weird situation and absolutely balled out.

Was it a case of right place/right time on what may be objectively the worst team in the NFL? Sure, but I’m not about to sit here and take away from what he was able to produce week in and week out. As much as I love Colts RB Jonathan Taylor, many of us (including myself) kind of assumed he’d go off eventually. Vikings WR Justin Jefferson absolutely KILLED IT, but even skeptics who were unsure as to what his year one impact knew what a stud he was. James Robinson, on the other hand, largely came out of nowhere, and as much as those of us who picked him up early on want to pat ourselves on the back for doing so, let’s not pretend we saw this coming.

MM: RB James Robinson (JAX) was the only rookie to be considered for fantasy MVP, so that is an easy choice too. Which, is impressive given how loaded this rookie class was in retrospect. Colts RB Jonathan Taylor finished the year on a strong note and was RB3 to Robinson's RB20 during the fantasy playoffs, but Robinson still finished ahead in the season-long standings, at RB4 to Taylor's RB7 in PPR. Had Taylor been the lead back in Indianapolis for a full season, this award would likely have been his, as value does not really factor into ROTY for me the way it does for MVP. But he was not, so he is not my ROTY.

Only two rookies finished with more points than James Robinson. Chargers QB Justin Herbert finished 16th in overall points, but QB10 is not as impressive as RB4. It just is not. WR8 is closer though, and that is exactly where Justin Jefferson was by the end of Week 16, with just 1.5 more points in PPR. Unfortunately, Jefferson was significantly more mercurial than Robinson and was genuinely unplayable in six of his 15 games this fantasy season. Plus Robinson had him beat in PPG.

The Big Oof

CH: I could go several ways with this pick. As much as I want to dunk on myself for the Browns RB D’Ernest Johnson waiver wire call, I had the wherewithal to advise the public somewhat properly on the subject in contrast with the fact I blew my own FAAB budget on him in a couple leagues, so all’s well that ends well there I suppose.

I think the call I have to go with that would take an exhaustive amount of time to go through/dig up receipts for is the relentless love we gave to Jaguars QB Gardner Minshew II. Perhaps this is of a case where it is through no fault of our own, but I think I can speak for Malcolm and myself when I say that to a certain degree, we lacked the awareness as it relates to the Jacksonville Jaguars’ situation as a whole this season and that we spent a lot of time advocating for a guy who ended up as the QB26 on the year in a place where no one wanted him to succeed. Foresight is paramount when it comes to this game and I think we both lacked in that department.

MM: There was plenty to choose from, but projecting Dallas WR Michael Gallup as a borderline WR1/WR2 cannot stop coming to the top of my mind. Seriously, I said, "Expect Gallup to utilize this consistency and talent to produce a finish much closer to Amari Cooper's WR10 from 2019 than Gallup's WR22." Not only was that wrong, as Gallup struggled his way to a WR36 finish by the end of Week 16, but the reason he struggled so much was a glaring lack of consistency.

How glaring? In the eight games where he scored less than 10 PPR points, Gallup averaged only 5.1 PPR points. in the other seven games, he played he averaged 18.93 points. Literally the definition of a boom/bust player. Yes, you can see the talent is there given he scored over 132 points in just seven games, and yes, the Cowboys certainly struggled at QB once Dak Prescott went down, but Gallup was just plain unusable this season. The targets were there, he had the opportunity, and he just could not seize it this year. No excuses.

The Sorta... Kinda... Maybe?

CH: So yeah, Jets WR Jameson Crowder ended the year as the WR39 in PPR scoring, I get it. That’s fine! Buuut, I did say he would be a WR2 by year’s end, and on a points per game basis, he did end the year as the WR25, so close enough! Suck it! AH-HA!

Seriously though, I only mention this because for some unknown reason, I took it upon myself to get super aggressive and write an in-depth piece about… well… how Crowder would be a better low-end WR2 than Browns WR Jarvis Landry? Good for me for putting in the effort to end up being technically correct, but at the same time, was this really an issue or topic that needed my dedication and attention? Nope. I could’ve easily spent my time more wisely, but good for me, I guess. There were bigger fish to fry at the time and I swear I will try my best not get caught in too many more meaningless rabbit holes moving forward. I can be more useful with my time.

MM: I did not even rank Chris Herndon IV (NYJ) in my TE rankings. Did I get plenty wrong? Absolutely! After all, I also did not rank T.J. Hockenson, who was TE3 this year. But more importantly, I had the foresight to tell you that Chris Herndon IV would not be fantasy-irrelevant in 2020, which was not exactly the coldest take in the world. Low and behold, at the end of the fantasy season where did Herndon finish? TE42 in PPR

Clearly, I am an infallible genius, and the ESPN job offer should be in my inbox tomorrow.

The Smeckledorf

CH: We were not only duped, not only bamboozled, but we were absolutely Smeckledorfed by Patriots QB Cam Newton. Yeah, the former NFL MVP being paired with the GOAT in HC Bill Belichick was a great thing for us to feed off of entering the year. I get where the optimism came from. And hey, those first couple weeks of the season in which Newton was the QB3 over that period made him an absolute must-add, but it did not end well. From that point on (Week 3-17), the man was the QB20.

The fantasy football public really should’ve seen this coming from a mile away because a lot of that production came from a combined 4 rushing TDs to open the year that came from within goal line range, so none of this is me saying Cam Newton sucks, but c’mon. Somewhere in the back of our minds, we should have been able to point at this and say “hey, there’s no way this keeps up,” but we enjoy riding the wave as far as it’ll take us.

While I don’t believe anyone here at The Lateral went gung-ho over what we saw and advocated harshly on behalf of acquiring Newton, we did get speckle-dwarfed by New England and their ability to scheme for a player like Newton over the course of an entire season, and this call carries over into a lot of what was said about adding other players from this offense as the year went along as well. This isn’t so much of a miss on the player as it is about the miss on trusting a team and coaching staff based on absolutely nothing but a largely irrelevant and narrative-driven belief that they’d figure out what’s best and kick ass.

MM: Up until the end of the season there was a real case for A.J. Dillon here, but he finally showed why Green Bay drafted him in the end. I honestly had to think about this one for a while. I wanted to find something that truly shocked us. And then it dawned on me…

Sean Payton starting Taysom Hill (NO) at QB over Jameis Winston was a true shock.

In retrospect, we should have not have been so shocked. Yes, we joked all the time about how only Sean Payton thinks Taysom Hill is a QB, so we (or at least I) assumed that the $22 million contract that Hill signed back in April was because of his ability to play so many positions (QB, RB, TE). Then we all got excited when Jameis Winston, a former NFL starting QB, was brought in for a whopping... $1.1 million with incentives?

Turns out this was simply a case of following the money. If one QB is making $16 million guaranteed, and another is making just over $1 million, the QB making eight figures is ahead of the one making seven figures. Go figure.

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