2022 Fantasy Football Award Winners: Who were the best players of the season?

Most Fantasy football leagues do not include Week 18, so it’s a good time to hand out some hardware and specialty lists for the 2022 fantasy season. Get dressed to the nines, hop in your limo, walk the red carpet and let’s open some envelopes.

Quarterback Awards

The Scoring Leader: Patrick Mahomes, 464.40 points (Yahoo basic scoring)

Despite an ordinary set of wideouts, Mahomes is headed for his second MVP award and his second career QB1 finish. Mahomes leads the league in passing yards, touchdowns and QBR, and he’s pushed his YPA back over the 8.0 mark.

He’s the best player in the league at the moment, and I don’t think anyone’s all that close.

Best Above-Fold Draft Value: Jalen Hurts, QB3

Hurts had a rising ADP all summer, percolating up to QB5 in the final draft week of the season (per NFFC data). But his improvement as a passer combined with dynamic running and constant goal-line equity made him remarkably consistent. He probably had the MVP in his back pocket before his December injury.

Late-Round and Waiver Wire Heroes: Geno Smith, Daniel Jones, Jared Goff

It looked like the Seahawks were rebooting when they traded Russell Wilson, but Smith played at a Pro-Bowl level most of the year (while Wilson fell apart in Denver). The Rams ran away from Goff two years ago, but he showed his chops with a plucky Detroit team, making handy use of an underrated supporting cast and a creative offense design.

Jones doesn’t have a lot of help at receiver, but he’s improved his decision-making and remains a dynamic runner. Coach of the Year could go to several candidates, but I lean toward New York savior Brian Daboll.

Running Back Awards

The Scoring Leader: Austin Ekeler, 314 points

Ekeler was an efficient touchdown scorer (18 spikes, 13 on the ground) and the runaway leader in running-back targets and receptions. The Chargers needed Ekeler more than ever with Mike Williams and Keenan Allen missing extensive time, and Ekeler was up to the task.

Best Above-Fold Draft Values: Josh Jacobs, Miles Sanders, Rhamondre Stevenson

I was one of the analysts worried about Jacobs, noting the team passing on his player option and concerned about the offensive line. Jacobs proved me flat wrong, rambling to a RB3 finish. Sanders was part of a perfect Philadelphia fantasy offense, a high-scoring team with a highly concentrated usage tree. Sanders lost some touchdowns to Hurts of course, but Philadelphia did not use a second running back proactively. Score another win for positive touchdown regression.

The Patriots' offense was a difficult watch most weeks, with Stevenson the only exception.

Late-Round and Waiver Wire Heroes: Jamaal Williams, Jerick McKinnon, Tyler Allgeier, D'Onta Foreman

Williams is one of Detroit’s spirit animals, an automatic plug-in at the goal line and a consistent fantasy scorer. No matter how many splash plays D’Andre Swift contributed, the Lions never wavered from Williams’ role. McKinnon earned Kansas City’s trust as a pass-catcher and pass-protector and ran pure with late-season receiving touchdowns. Allgeier was one of the rare running back wins from the rookie pool this year, coming on late and earning the heaviest touch share. Foreman deserves props for an amazing comeback from his torn Achilles.

Scoring in Concert Award: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard

Pollard’s big-play ability pushed him inside the top 10 at the position, while Elliott’s goal-line equity kept him inside the top 20. Don’t let Pollard’s upside obscure that Elliott is still a decent player. Zeke has faded away as a receiver, but he’s scored touchdowns in nine straight weeks, providing a lovely fantasy floor.

Wide Receiver Awards

The Scoring Leader: Justin Jefferson, 299.20 points

Jefferson was contained by the Packers secondary in Week 17, but it’s hard to fault a guy who scored 25 or more points the three prior weeks. Jefferson leads all receivers in targets, catches and yards, making up for a slightly-disappointing touchdown count. He might be the consensus 1.01 pick next year.

Justin Jefferson #18 of the Minnesota Vikings is a fantasy superstar
Justin Jefferson could be the clear-cut No. 1 pick in 2023 fantasy drafts. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Notable League-wide Trend: New faces smash in new places

Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams and A.J. Brown were stars on the move before the season, and they all thrived in their new arenas, sitting WR2, WR3 and WR4, respectively. All three have logged some time with backup quarterbacks this year but it hasn’t slowed them down. Some talents are too big to fail.

Best Above-Fold Draft Value: Devonta Smith, Amon-Ra St. Brown, DK Metcalf & Tyler Lockett

Smith sits WR10, another piece of Philadelphia’s perfect fantasy setup. St. Brown’s smashing finish to 2021 was validated by a dynamic full season. If you knew Smith would be fine in Seattle's pilot chair, you likely acquired Metcalf and Lockett at ridiculous summer ADP values.

Late-Round and Waiver Wire Heroes: Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Zay Jones

Wilson and Olave outkicked their preseason ADPs, Wilson despite erratic Jets quarterback play. Wide receiver is the position least likely to offer fantasy juice off the wire; Jones (WR24) is the best pick from an uninspiring lot. It helped that Trevor Lawrence flashed superstar potential at the end of the year.

Two other names worth a mention: Donovan Peoples-Jones (WR36) was handy, especially in those pesky bye weeks, and Christian Watson (WR39) was a classic late-developing rookie wideout, a fantasy boost down the stretch.

Tight Receiver Awards

The Scoring Leader: Travis Kelce, 256.50 points

The gap was mildly closed in the final quarter of the year, but Kelce nonetheless rolled to a TE1 finish that was never in doubt. He outscored T.J. Hockenson (the TE2) by about 84 points; that’s roughly the same difference between Hockenson and Zach Ertz, the TE18.

Kelce is a tricky call next year, as he’ll surely be a first-round pick but he’s entering his age-34 season. Then again, consider his seven fantasy finishes: TE1, TE2, TE1, TE1, TE1, TE2, TE1. He’s ridiculous.

Best Above-Fold Draft Value: T.J. Hockenson

It might be a stretch to call Hockenson a league winner, but he had a TE7 tag in the final draft week and he’s going to finish TE2. That works. A midseason change of team didn’t hold him back at all.

Late-Round and Waiver Wire Heroes: Evan Engram, Taysom Hill, Juwan Johnson

It took a while for the Jaguars to figure out Engram, but he was dynamite in December. Hill could have been more impactful had the Saints truly accepted him as a regular part of the offense; on too many Sundays, he was oddly forgotten. Johnson’s usefulness was mostly about touchdown equity, but that’s what we’re generally chasing with waiver-wire tight ends. Give us a shot from in close.

The Pinball Scoring Log

The 40-point club (using Yahoo’s default scoring, half-point PPR)

Lamar Jackson, Week 2: 45.80 points

Tua Tagovailoa, Week 2: 45.55 points

Lamar Jackson, Week 3: 42.60 points

Josh Allen, Week 5: 40.40 points

Joe Burrow, Week 7: 44.05 points

Joe Mixon, Week 9: 53.10 points

Justin Fields, Week 9: 43.95 points

Justin Fields, Week 10: 42.05 points

Josh Jacobs, Week 12: 45.30 points

Mike Evans, Week 17: 43.70 points

Tom Brady, Week 17: 42.00 points

The Jackson-Tagovailoa explosions came in the same game, with Miami crafting an amazing comeback. Brady and Evans were the only quarterback-receiver combo to score in concert to this extreme. Evans, of course, broke an 11-game scoreless streak with that binge against Carolina.

Tight Ends Scoring 30 points or more

T.J. Hockenson, Week 4: 35.90 points

Taysom Hill, Week 5: 34.30 points

Travis Kelce, Week 5: 30.00 points

Travis Kelce, Week 11: 32.50 points

Even Engram, Week 14: 33.70 points

George Kittle did not crack the 30-point barrier, but he scored five touchdowns over the last three weeks, clicking with Brock Purdy. Hockenson had a 29.40 explosion against the Giants in Week 16.

Defense/Special Teams Units (DST) Scoring 20 points or more

Pittsburgh, Week 1: 26 points

Tampa Bay, Week 2: 26 points

Jacksonville, Week 2: 21 points

Buffalo, Week 2: 20 points

San Francisco, Week 4: 21 points

Dallas, Week 5: 23 points

New England, Week 5: 22 points

New York Jets, Week 6: 20 points

Dallas, Week 7: 22 points

New England, Week 9: 26 points

Cleveland, Week 13: 30 points

Dallas, Week 13: 20 points

New England, Week 14: 20 points

Indianapolis, Week 15: 23 points

Los Angeles Rams, Week 16: 21 points

Los Angeles Chargers, Week 16: 20 points

Green Bay, Week 17: 23 points

Of the 17 instances listed here, only one of them came from a team that lost its game. Not many will remember the Indianapolis-Minnesota game for the Colts D/ST — they’ll remember Minnesota’s crazy comeback, in front of a national audience. When in doubt with D/ST picks, you want the leverage that comes from a team controlling its game.