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2020 MVPs and what we can learn from them
There are plenty of great candidates for the 2020 Fantasy MVP and choosing the one individual player who was the best possible selection might not be as important as understanding the makeup of a potential MVP. Knowing what types of players won fantasy leagues this year can help us target similar players heading into the 2021 season. We’ll run through a few runner ups and then anoint the official MVP at the end but the factors that got these names in contention matter just as much as the players themselves.
Honorable Mention: Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills
I’ll be mentioning Best Ball win rates in this article a lot. Best Ball isn’t a direct parallel to managed leagues but it does serve as a good proxy to normal leagues and does a great job at quantifying which players added to fantasy teams the most. The win rate is simply the percentage of teams with a specific player that won their league. These teams had a 1/12 chance to start so the average player win rate should be at 8.3%. Numbers exceeding that benefited their teams while players with double or even triple that rate were burying opponents on a weekly basis. Allen’s win rate landed at 16.6%. He was the second highest scoring quarterback on the year and barely cost a top-100 pick. The only reason he doesn’t land any higher than an honorable mention is how replaceable his points were. Aaron Rodgers went nearly two rounds after him in fantasy drafts and scored within two points per game of him. Streaming quarterbacks like Derek Carr, Jalen Hurts, and Taysom Hill produced massive spike weaks while Justin Herbert only produced spikes for half the season and went undrafted in most leagues. Quarterback will always be an afterthought because of the bevy of choices we have at the position. Even the best don’t offer you points you can’t find elsewhere.
Honorable Mention: Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers
Adams may only be an honorable mention because of bad luck. Had he not missed a few games in the middle of the season, it’s possible we’re talking about him as the fantasy MVP and a darkhorse NFL MVP. However, his 18.7 fantasy points from Week 2 through Week 6 loom large for teams who started the season 1-5. Removing the first game Adams got hurt in and the two he missed, his 22.2 touchdown pace over the year would have been second all-time. There’s not much math to do here. Take the highest volume players on the best offenses. For that reason, Tyreek Hill and Adams should be the top two receivers heading into the 2021 season.
Honorable Mention: Stefon Diggs, WR, Buffalo Bills
Diggs falls into the same thesis of Adams: High target share + good offense = fantasy points. However, he was coming at a massive discount heading into the season. The narrative of receivers changing teams tanking their values was blown wildly out of proportion and Diggs fell to the end of the fifth round on average. The narrative does have some backing as well but the samples are small and the situations are often unique meaning that the variance within the sample is wide. We were likely better looking at the individual player and the situation rather than the small set of data on players switching teams. Before 2020, Diggs had been top-25 in yards per route run in three of his previous four seasons. He was second in the league in 2019. His competition for targets in Buffalo consisted of two role players. Even if we projected his offense to be inefficient, his floor based on talent and volume was the same as a player like Terry McLaurin. His ceiling is what we got.
Honorable Mention: Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
The winner was a tossup between two players and Kamara simply missed out on the MVP because his points were slightly more replaceable. However, he’s still the runner-up for a reason. Kamara led all non-quarterbacks in fantasy points and put a 36-point gap between himself and Davante Adams by scoring six times in the final round of the fantasy playoffs. He led all running backs in win rate and trailed only one player, the upcoming MVP, in win rate. The reason his points were modestly replaced was that Davlin Cook and, to a lesser extent, Derrick Henry put up solid fights. Cooks missed a week and finished 40 points behind Kamara. Henry closed out the year with a monstrous performance but that was in Week 17 so it doesn’t get counted for fantasy purposes because few leagues play in Week 17. The reason he didn’t come particularly close to Kamara this year is obvious. He doesn’t catch passes. In 15 games, Henry had four performances below 10 PPR points. Kamara’s receiving chops reduced that number to one. The fragility in someone like Henry will always force him to take a backseat to players like Cook, Kamara, Christian McCaffrey, and Saquon Barkley among others.
2020 Fantasy MVP: Travis Kelce
Kelce narrowly edges out Kamara because of how irreplaceable his fantasy points were this year. He set the record for receiving yards by a tight end and posted a top-five season by receptions, all while playing in just 15 games. Kelce out-scored Darren Waller by over 60 points. He owned six of the top 15 games by a tight end this year. Waller accounted for four of those games and no other receiver even hit two but Waller also posted four games below ten points. Kelce had just one such dud. Logan Thomas topped Waller by win rate because he only posted two more dud and cost virtually nothing. Waller didn’t offer the consistent ceiling of Kelce and had an equivalent floor to THomas. He was great but his points were replaceable. Kelce’s were not. Kelce deserves to be a first-round selection next season and we should be looking for his types of points in other players. If the Titans lose Corey Davis in free agency and don’t replace him, A.J. Brown could hit the apex of volume and talent. If the 49ers replace Jimmy Garaoppolo with an upper echelon passer George Kittle could potentially replicate Kelce’s stats.