Fantasy MVP - Ceedee Lamb
Yes, Christian McCaffrey is the fantasy MVP - we all knew that he would be as long as he stayed healthy, he beat the injury-prone allegations last year (which made no sense when he was with the Panthers anyway), and he leads the league in touchdowns scored this year. Is anyone surprised? Not at all. So in the interest of making this award actually interesting and not just defaulting to CMC, I’m going to choose another player - and I think that has to be Ceedee Lamb, right?
I get that there’s an argument for Tyreek Hill here and that on a per-game basis, Hill outscored Lamb by seven-tenths of a point per game, but Lamb was available for ALL of his games this year and fell into the single digits just once all season (nine points against San Francisco). He was dragging his feet to open the year, yeah, but so was the entire Cowboys offense – and he finally showed some signs of life in Week 6 against the Chargers before the bye. Now, if you had Ceedee Lamb, nothing could have prepared you for what came after the bye week – but I think it’s the consistency and the elite level of production you got from Lamb, plus the timing of his breakout that makes him the MVP.
If you had him early in the year, there’s a good chance you were muddling through the fantasy season up until Week 8, but after that, he never let you down – not once. He scored at least 16 PPR points in every game from Week 8 on (10 games), led the NFL in receiving yards by 300, in target share at 32.7%, in receptions by 25, in scrimmage touchdowns with 11, in fantasy points per game by a whole touchdown per game and in total fantasy points by 100. There’s a good chance if you had him that you straight up didn’t lose down the stretch - or at least not by any fault of his. I had him in my dynasty league – from Week 8 on, I went undefeated. Then you look at his playoff matchups - did he come through when it really mattered? Yep - he again led all players in fantasy points per game from Weeks 15-17. Three straight top-10 performances, never less than 18, and 40 points in your championship. That’s the definition of the most valuable fantasy player. And it’s not just because I’m a Cowboys fan.
They say better late than never - but for Lamb to become the league’s best fantasy WR in 2023, it was hardly late at all, and it changed the trajectory of the teams that had him on a dime.
Best Value - Raheem Mostert
You could make an argument that Jordan Love or Brock Purdy could fit this title considering they were drafted at the WAY back of drafts, but we see late-round quarterbacks pop up as top-10 guys a lot more often than we see backend running backs pop up as top-10 guys. Raheem Mostert wasn’t even a thought as a potential RB1 coming into the season - remember, the Dolphins had Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle and it was a three-man backfield and this, that, the other – nobody saw his huge season coming, and that’s what makes him the best value of the season.
There was a path for Purdy to be a top fantasy quarterback – just look at his weapons. Rachaad White was obviously a value, but Raheem Mostert still outscored him and White was going a few rounds earlier in drafts in the dead zone. That’s what I’m saying - Mostert wasn’t even a dead zone running back! You drafted him as depth probably as your RB3, and then to have that running back ascend to RB1 status changes the whole complexion of your roster.
And the fact that he’s a running back makes him all the more valuable - high-end RB1s don’t grow on trees, but quarterbacks? Very replaceable. Wide receivers, too, outside of the top guys. But running backs? You could have drafted CMC and then grabbed Mostert with a flier later on - and suddenly you end up with two of the top three running backs in total points. You’re not getting that kind of game-changing value from any other player.
Best Waiver Wire Pickup - Puka Nacua
We kind of foreshadowed this one a little bit on the episode earlier in the week, but I’m going with Puka Nacua here. Kyren Williams is a close second, and like I just talked about with Raheem Mostert, running backs are inherently more valuable than receivers because there are a lot fewer of them than receivers. But in this case, the grace that I would usually afford a running back like Kyren Williams is wiped out because he missed those four games in the middle of the year. And yeah, that’s out of his control – but Puka was not only available for every game this year, but he averaged 18 points per game on his own in them, too. Puka is fourth in the NFL in receiving yards, had nine top-12 weekly finishes, and scored in the double digits in all but four of his games.
When you talk about the best waiver wire pickups, I look at it a lot like adding points to your team that you weren’t necessarily supposed to have. That’s what it felt like starting Puka in the first five weeks of the season – it was like getting a head start on your opponent. He had ten or more targets in four of those five games; ironically, his two games with ten or more receptions; and he had 20 or more PPR points in four of those five games. Kyren Williams is ridiculous, I’ll acknowledge that - but there was a big chunk out of the middle of the season with him, and it ended up being five games missed technically because he was out anyway for the Rams’ bye in Week 10.
Puka was in your lineup every week this year even though you didn’t know who he was a week before the season started. He wasn’t on anyone’s radar, and now he’s going to be a surefire top pick next year.