It’s time to honor season’s top performers

As the NFL regular season winds down, it’s time to hand out some fantasy awards to players who made most teams a success and probably are playing now in the fantasy playoffs.

In normal award ceremonies, the night’s biggest accolade is always reserved for last, but we’ll kick it off with Fantasy Player of the Year honors, and the winner shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Ladies and gentlemen, the award goes to Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson.

Not only does Johnson have the best numbers, combining for more than 2,000 yards rushing and receiving and 13 touchdowns through Week 14, but it’s where he was drafted. Johnson was projected at No. 12 in the draft by many analysts.

Johnson probably went at the tail end of the first round or early in the second round, giving lucky fantasy owners a great start to the draft. He has rushed for 1,626 yards and 11 touchdowns.

The dilemma many had with Johnson coming into the season was the fear of him sharing carries with a fitter, leaner LenDale White in the Titans’ backfield. Both backs had success together in 2008 with White getting most of the goal-line carries, but Johnson put it all together in Week 2. He scored three times from long distance, rushing for 197 yards and catching nine passes for 87 yards, in a 34-31 loss to the Houston Texans.

From then on, Johnson has been a fantasy stud like no other. Since Week 6, Johnson has rushed for more than 100 yards in each game.

BEST LATE DRAFT PICK — This is a toss-up between Baltimore’s Ray Rice and Minnesota’s Brett Favre. Rice was projected as the 128th-ranked player in the preseason, but he has produced 1,041 yards rushing and seven touchdowns.

Favre was hardly on anyone’s fantasy radar. He was ranked No. 150 and drafted by teams as a backup with hopes that he might be serviceable during a projected starting quarterback’s bye week. It took Favre only two weeks to wipe off the rust and show some old magic in his Week 3 comeback win over the San Francisco 49ers.

Through last week, only five quarterbacks had compiled better fantasy numbers than Favre, who has 27 touchdown passes with six interceptions.

QUARTERBACK OF THE YEAR — The best thing about the success of Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers is where he was projected, which was No. 38, or about a third- or fourth-round choice; that put six other quarterbacks ahead of him. When it was time to pick a quarterback, many were considering Rodgers with the likes of Jay Cutler, Donovan McNabb or Carson Palmer.

Who would have thought Rodgers would throw for 25 touchdowns and rush for three more while throwing for 3,579 yards through Week 14? Rodgers has a slim lead over New Orleans’ Drew Brees in points accumulated.

WIDE RECEIVER OF THE YEAR — The Texans’ Andre Johnson lived up to the hype and more. Johnson came into the draft as the No. 2-ranked wideout behind Larry Fitzgerald. Johnson’s ordinary games are exceptional, and in his exceptional games he wins fantasy weeks almost all by himself. He has 1,237 yards receiving and eight TDs.

Honorable mention goes to Denver Broncos star Brandon Marshall, who was thought of as a cancer at draft time because of his attitude, a suspension and missing the preseason.

It took Marshall a few weeks to get going and build a relationship with quarterback Kyle Orton, but since Week 3 few wideouts have been better. With three games to go, Marshall has 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns, almost worthy of beating out Johnson.

Micah Roberts is a Las Vegas-based writer who contributes weekly fantasy football outlooks for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at MM.Roberts7@gmail.com.

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