Week 17 is all over, and so is the entire fantasy football season. It is a sad time of year for the majority of owners who didn’t win their league’s championship, but for those who did, they get bragging rights all the way until September. Sunday was filled with a lot of boring NFL games played by teams who aren’t going to make the playoffs, but there were still plenty of good players who performed very well. This is the last column of the year, so for those of you who read each week, I thank you, and we’ll pick up right where we left off next season. Here are the best performances from Week 17.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR Pittsburgh Steelers:
The 62nd overall pick in this year’s draft certainly had himself a great first season in the NFL. In only 14 games, JuJu Smith-Schuster had 58 receptions for 917 yards and seven touchdowns. Starting the season as the number three option in the passing game, he would later pass Martavis Bryant on the depth chart and fill in for Antonio Brown as the Steelers’ go-to target. Smith-Schuster’s production wasn’t dragged down with backup quarterback Landry Jones playing Sunday, as the talented wide receiver caught nine passes for 143 yards and a touchdown, he also added a kick return touchdown in the contest. The nice performance gave fantasy owners a season high of 26.3 points in standard scoring. Smith-Schuster finished the year as the 15th highest scoring wide receiver and provided great value after going undrafted in the majority of ESPN.com leagues. The rookie will be a hot commodity heading into next year’s drafts, as he will be playing second fiddle to Antonio Brown on a pass-heavy offense that will want to get him involved even more than this year.
Orleans Darkwa, RB New York Giants:
The New York Giants’ backfield has been mediocre for the past couple of seasons, and this year was no different. Paul Perkins was practically the only running back drafted from the team in fantasy leagues coming into the season, but he didn’t last long as the starter. Orleans Darkwa pretty much took over the backfield and never looked back. In Week 17 the fourth-year running back carried the ball 20 times for a season-high of 154 yards and a touchdown. The admirable performance gave fantasy owners a season-high 21.4 fantasy points in standard scoring and was a nice surprise for those who were still playing for a championship. Darkwa was a decent flex option throughout the season, giving owners five different games with double-digit fantasy points but he never really took advantage of his touches until this week when he ran for 7.7 yards per carry. It will be interesting to see if the Giants address their backfield in free agency or the NFL draft, but if they don’t add a more talented running back, they will probably struggle to move the ball on the ground next season as well.
Philip Rivers, QB Los Angeles Chargers:
The Chargers played one of their best games Sunday since they were fighting for one of the final wild-card spots. Unfortunately for Los Angeles fans, the team did their part, but with the Bills and Titans both winning their games, the Chargers were eliminated from playoff
contention. If you are like many football fans who believe the Chargers would have played better playoff football than Buffalo or Tennessee, you are probably right. Even though he ended up missing the playoffs, Philip Rivers put together one of his best games of the season against the Oakland Raiders. The veteran quarterback threw for 387 yards and three touchdowns which gave fantasy owners 28 points in standard scoring leagues. Rivers ended up having a much more efficient season by throwing for 11 fewer interceptions and finished the year as the eighth highest scoring quarterback in fantasy football. The Chargers may have missed the playoffs, but next season they will be coming back with something to prove, and everyone on the offense should benefit. Rivers will have plenty of weapons surrounding him next season and should be drafted as a low-end QB1.
Alvin Kamara, RB New Orleans Saints:
The Saints will go marching into the playoffs with the best running game in the league, and all of that praise is because of the work of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. After the trade of Adrian Peterson to the Arizona Cardinals, the elite duo started to perform well and helped lead the team to a great season. Kamara finished Week 17 with nine carries for 44 yards and touchdown, he also caught six passes for 84 yards, and he had a kickoff return touchdown to add to his day. Owners were pleasantly surprised to get 24.8 fantasy points in standard scoring. Kamara finished the season as the fourth highest scoring running back largely because of a combined 1,554 yards and 14 total touchdowns. The talented rookie scored double-digit fantasy points in all but five games this season, and amazingly he did all his damage as a second string player. New Orleans did a good job splitting the carries between the two running backs because Ingram also totaled over 1,500 yards and scored 12 touchdowns of his own. Ingram is still under contract for another season, and it doesn’t seem like the Saints will want to change their backfield plans going into next year. Unfortunately, as much as I want to endorse Kamara as a first round pick next year, I can’t help but feel that his upside is capped with Ingram around compared to some other elite options.
Doug Baldwin, WR Seattle Seahawks:
The NFL playoffs are going to look a little bit different this year with the Seattle Seahawks being absent after five straight postseason appearances. Injuries ended up derailing the previously elite defense, and the offense was inconsistent with no solid run game and very poor offensive line play. Quarterback Russell Wilson did all he could to keep the team afloat, but it just wasn’t enough. Luckily, for fantasy owners who stuck with star wide receiver Doug Baldwin throughout the whole season, he rewarded them with 21 points in standard scoring this week. The veteran caught four passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns against the Arizona Cardinals. This year was pretty similar to what Baldwin has done in the past, but after two straight 1,000 yard seasons, he fell just short in 2017. Luckily Baldwin remains a good red zone threat as he put up eight touchdowns this season, helping him end as the 13th highest scoring wide receiver. The
Seahawks’ offense is tough to invest in, but Wilson and Baldwin will look to make their connection even better next season.